Even as Ohio advisers to “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance say Vance is seriously considering launching a bid against Sen. Sherrod Brown for the U.S. Senate, Republicans privately are concerned that the author, who has never before held public office, may have problems that would prove disastrous to his bid.
Key among their concerns: His residency and his critical comments about President Donald Trump, at one point tweeting that he found him reprehensible.
Vance, a Middletown native who told Columbus Monthly in November that he had taken a rental unit in German Village in January, makes no secret of the fact that he also has a residence in Washington, D.C., where his wife, Usha, is a clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
But Washington, D.C., tax records indicate that Vance received a Homestead Deduction for a D.C. property purchased in 2014 as late as last September. According to the district’s Department of Tax and Revenue, a taxpayer can only receive the deduction if the property is the principal residence of the owner.
The Constitution requires that a U.S. Senator be an inhabitant of the state he represents. However, it’s messy: Many senators maintain residences in Washington, D.C., and in their home states. The amount of time they spend in their state can become an issue with voters: Both Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican, and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, a Democrat, lost elections amid criticism that were only nominally residents of the state that they represented.
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Jai Chabria, who is working with Vance, said the author splits his time between both locations, joking that Vance could claim a residency in an airplane because he spends so much time flying between Ohio and D.C.
“I’m extremely confident if he chooses to get in that he’ll have a very well-resourced campaign,” he said, adding “Sherrod Brown has no desire to face J.D. Vance. Sherrod Brown has beaten a lot of typical Republicans. J.D. is more anti–establishment than other people in the race.”
Privately, Republicans are expressing concern about Vance’s past statements about Trump. Vance has said he voted for Evan McMullin and not Trump in 2016.
In October 2016, just a month before the election, Vance tweeted: “What percentage of the American population has @realDonaldTrump sexually assaulted?”
That same month, he also said that “Trump makes people I care about afraid. Immigrants, Muslims, etc. Because of this I find him reprehensible.”
Chabria was quick to defend Vance’s past comments on Trump.
“There are a lot of Republicans that were critical of the president,” he said. “There are also a lot of people who could point to the really positive things he’s done…what I can tell you is this: J.D. wants the president to succeed.”
Barry Bennett, a GOP political consultant, said both the residency issue and the Trump comments are hurdles. “Washington seems to be absolutely his primary residence,” Bennett said. “I don’t know what address he claims in Ohio, but he’s not living there.”
If Vance decides to get in, he would battle businessman Mike Gibbons and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth for the nomination. The Republican nomination became up for grabs last week when Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel bowed out because of health problems involving his wife.