Vance addresses criticism of Trump endorsement at campaign stop in Huber Heights

U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance discussed his changing views on former President Donald Trump at a campaign stop Thursday in Huber Heights, his first Dayton-area event since being endorsed by the former president.

Vance spoke to several dozen people at an outdoor pavilion in Huber Heights as a stop on his “No BS Town Hall Tour” across the state this week. Vance admitted that he said “a lot of negative things about Donald Trump in 2016.”

“In fact, I did not think that Trump was going to be a great president. I was very happy to be proven wrong. And I think it’s very important to admit when you’re wrong about somebody, when you’re wrong about anything,” he said.

Vance said that Trump told him the former president supports his campaign because Vance believes in the America First agenda, and that Vance is the one who can beat Democratic front-runner U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan.

Vance also advocated securing the southern border through finishing the border wall, declaring drug cartels terrorist organizations and using the U.S. military against them, and making sure no government programs support illegal immigrants.

“(The border) crisis is going to destroy this country if we allow it to continue for another four, another eight, years,” he said.

He also talked about restoring American manufacturing jobs. “We have to make it possible to support a family on a single, middle-class income again,” he said.

Attendees at the event said their support of Vance was definitely boosted by the Trump endorsement.

“Trump put in those four hard years of fighting for the common man. And for him to back J.D. Vance, it definitely signified and solidified his stance,” said Sean Ford of Tipp City.

Trump’s endorsement of Vance saw backlash from some veteran Trump supporters who resent anti-Trump statements Vance made during the 2016 election. Most recently, text messages from 2016 have emerged in which Vance wondered if Trump was “America’s Hitler.”

Rob Scott, who was the Ohio director of Trump’s campaign in 2016 and is currently Kettering Municipal Court clerk, was the lead signatory on a letter to Trump on Monday asking him to reconsider the endorsement. The letter was signed by 33 Trump delegates from the 2016 election.

“While J.D. Vance may have apologized and now says nice things about you (as candidate Vance) – the fact is J.D. Vance never once apologized for working against our movement and most importantly calling us – your original supporters – racist,” the letter says.

“Unlike the other candidates in this race, J.D. Vance has not developed relationships with Republican voters and grassroots leaders that are crucial to win. This endorsement of J.D. Vance is a betrayal to not only your Ohio supporters but Trump supporters across our great nation!”

Asked about this by the Dayton Daily News, Vance said the people who signed the letter support other candidates in the race and it’s understandable they would be upset with him getting Trump’s endorsement.

“Some of the people who signed that letter are literally on the payroll of the other campaigns, and the ones who aren’t we’re going to have to reach out to them and persuade them that I’m the guy because I think we’re going to win on May 3 and then the task is going to be to unite the party so we can beat Tim Ryan in November,” he said.

Trump campaigned with Don Trump Jr. on Wednesday and will appear on stage with President Trump at a rally in Delaware County Saturday.

Vance of Cincinnati is one of seven Republicans looking to replace retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

Other Republican primary candidates are state Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls; businessman Mike Gibbons of Fairview Park; former Ohio treasurer Josh Mandel of Beachwood; businessman Neil Patel of Westerville; businessman Mark Pukita of Dublin; former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken of Canton.

Candidates in the Democratic primary are attorney Morgan Harper of Columbus, businesswoman Traci “TJ” Johnson of Hilliard and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland Twp. in Trumbull County. A story about them was published in this newspaper April 10.

“Trump’s endorsement hasn’t united the Ohio GOP — it has only created more chaos and division as Republicans have spent the past week destroying each other,” said Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Michael Beyer. “With less than two weeks to go, this crowded primary will only get uglier and make it even harder for the GOP to unite behind one of their toxic, out-of-touch millionaires.”

Early voting in the May 3 primary is under way. Primary winners will face off in the Nov. 8 General Election.

Staff Writer Lynn Hulsey contributed to this report.

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