Billionaire Peter Thiel has donated $10 million to a group backing “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance for a potential 2022 Senate campaign in Ohio.
Vance, whose memoir about his troubled Appalachian upbringing was made into a popular movie available on Netflix, would face a crowded Republican primary against locally well-known figures including ex-state Treasurer Josh Mandel and ex-state GOP chair Jane Timken.
The large donation signals that Vance likely would be able to amass the funds necessary to win the race, and it could help make him an early perceived frontrunner.
Thiel is a PayPal co-founder and early Facebook investor. He prominently supported former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Thiel’s donation was first reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Brian Lanza, a spokesman for the pro-Vance PAC Protect Ohio Values, told the local publication that members of the Mercer family, which is influential in Republican politics, also made a “significant contribution.”
Vance, 36, is an Iraq War veteran and Yale Law School graduate. He formerly worked for Thiel investment firm Mithril Capital Management and for an Ohio state senator, Republican Bob Schuler.
Other high-profile Republicans could enter the race to replace retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman, including Trump-allied pastor Darrell Scott, House intelligence committee member Rep. Brad Wenstrup and Rep. Steve Stivers, who ran the national campaign committee for House Republicans in 2018.
Portman, 65, said he was stepping down in part because “it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy.”