COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio's open U.S. Senate seat will remain in Republican hands.
NBC News projects Republican JD Vance, a venture capitalist and best-selling "Hillbilly Elegy" author, has defeated longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman. With the Senate currently at an even 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats (with Vice President Kamala Harris able to break ties), this race took on added importance across the nation.
RELATED: Full election results from WKYC
"We just got a great chance to govern, and we need to use it," Vance told his supporters Tuesday night after Ryan "graciously" called him to concede. "I promise to all of my friends who are going to be at the Statehouse, to all of my friends who are going to be at the State Capitol, we need better leadership in Washington, D.C. And that's exactly what I promised: To fight for you every single day."
The 38-year-old Vance is a native of Middletown, Ohio, who received his bachelor's degree from Ohio State University. He went on to serve in the United States Marine Corps, before receiving his law degree from Yale, and joining Peter Thiel's venture capital firm Mithril Capita in San Francisco. He began his return to the Buckeye State by publishing the best selling book "Hillbilly Eligy" in 2016, leading the Washington Post to declare Vance the "voice of the Rust Belt" and giving him the notoriety to begin his quest for the Senate.
Vance fought his way through a crowded field of GOP candidates to win the nomination in May. The biggest key to his victory in the primary may very well have been receiving the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, with Vance embracing his support despite previously denouncing the former president as "America's Hitler" in 2016.
Vance has also embraced Trump's lies that the 2020 presidential election was "stolen" from him, and the overall Trump factor sparked heated words between the two Senate candidates during their pair of debates.
"You were calling Trump America's Hitler, and then you kissed his ass, and then he endorsed you," Ryan said to Vance during their second on-stage meeting.
Yet when in declaring victory on Tuesday, Vance was noticeably less partisan. In fact, he never once mentioned Trump's name.
"Whether you voted for me or not, the thing that I promise to do is go to the United State Senate and fight every single day for the people of Ohio," he said. "Thanks to you, we get the opportunity to do just that."
Vance responded by saying Ryan's 100% voting record with President Joe Biden means he's not the reasonable moderate he says he is.
The 49-year-old Ryan has represented the Mahoning Valley as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2003, and will now exit Congress. He had tried to paint himself as a moderate who appeals to what he calls the "exhausted majority" who was not afraid to disagree with President Joe Biden, also focusing on manufacturing jobs while hitting Vance for his "extreme" anti-abortion positions. Vance countered by noting how Ryan had voted with Biden's positions 100% of the time while also claiming that "Youngstown may not have lost 50,000 manufacturing jobs during your 20 years" if Ryan had been more of a "moderate."
In defeat, Ryan was somber and reflective, while also emphasizing the long-revered "peaceful transfer of power" many believe was lost on Jan. 6, 2021.
"As someone who was the Democratic nominee, I have the privilege to concede this race to JD Vance," Ryan said. "Because the way this country operates is that when you lose an election, you concede and you respect the will of the people."
Ohio's senior U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown released the following statement congratulating his soon-to-be colleague Vance while also commending Ryan, whom he had endorsed:
"Congratulations to J.D. Vance on tonight's victory. I look forward to working with J.D. when it's in the best interests of all Ohioans and continue the work Senator Portman and I have done to move our state forward.
"Congratulations also to Tim Ryan for running a strong race that was centered in the Dignity of Work. Tim and his team should be proud of their campaign, and I know Tim has a bright future ahead of him, serving Ohio and fighting for working families."
The Associated Press contributed to this story
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