Republican Vance declared winner in close U.S. Senate race in Ohio

j.d. vance J.D. Vance gestures as he speaks during the Ohio Republican Party election night watch party reception in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 8, 2022. Vance, the best-selling "Hillbilly Elegy" author, won a contentious race for Ohio's open U.S. Senate seat on Nov. 8, 2022, networks projected. | Photo by PAUL VERNON/AFP via Getty Images

Republican J.D. Vance, a Catholic convert, will assume public office for the first time in January after defeating Rep. Tim Ryan, a fellow Catholic, in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race on Tuesday. 

NBC News projected that as of roughly 11 p.m. ET, Vance had captured 53.8% of the vote in Ohio with 86% of the votes counted. His challenger, Ryan, garnered 46.1%.   

Observers had kept a close eye on the tight Nov. 8 race, as it could ultimately determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, there was still no clear picture of which party would come out on top.

Vance will fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

A venture capitalist and Marine veteran who grew up in Middletown, Ohio, Vance rose to national prominence thanks to his bestselling 2016 memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” which chronicles the poverty and other societal ills he observed in the society he grew up in. Throughout his campaign, Vance has touted his endorsement by former president Donald Trump, whom he had previously criticized but has in recent years come to embrace. 

Ryan has represented the working-class city of Youngstown in Congress since 2003 and launched an unsuccessful bid for the presidency from April to October 2019. Ryan snagged the vote in most of Ohio’s larger metro areas, including Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland, while a substantial majority of the state’s more rural counties voted for Vance, putting him over the top. 

Vance describes himself as “100% pro-life” on abortion while taking a harder stance on issues such as immigration. On economic policy, he has pledged to use tax cuts to keep companies in the U.S. and to attempt to reign in government spending. 

An EWTN poll conducted last month had shown Vance enjoying a lead overall among Catholics — 55.5% of likely Catholic voters in Ohio said they supported Vance, while 41% backed Ryan. Predictably, Vance captured a majority of Catholic voters in the Cincinnati area, where he grew up; and Ryan has the edge in the Youngstown area, where he has been active in politics for decades. 

The voters in the EWTN poll practice their Catholic faith to varying degrees. Breaking down the results by Mass attendance, Vance was most popular among Catholics who say they attend Mass daily, with nine out of 10 saying they planned to support him. Ryan captured the majority of Catholics who attend once a year or less. 

In addition, broken down by whether they agree with the Church’s teachings, Ryan was the preferred candidate among those who consider themselves “former Catholics,” two-thirds of whom said they would vote for him. Nine in 10 Catholics who say they agree with all of the Church’s teachings said they will back Vance.

Ryan is a Democrat who described himself as “pro-life” and voted accordingly for several years at the start of his political career, but today holds pro-choice views. In a 2015 op-ed, Ryan explained the switch, saying he had “gained a deeper understanding of the complexities and emotions that accompany the difficult decisions that women and families make when confronted” with pregnancy.

Ryan said recently that he supports some restrictions on late-term abortions; however, on his campaign website, Ryan touted his position as a co-sponsor and supporter of the Women’s Health Protection Act, a radical pro-abortion bill that has failed before in the Senate.

This is a developing story.

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