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J.D. Vance flips view on ‘toxic’ abandoning of Ohio hometowns

J.D. Vance argued in a recent fundraising email it’s “toxic” to tell people to abandon their struggling hometowns, but on at least three occasions before he was the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, he encouraged exactly that.

The July 24 email from Vance reads: “Growing up in Middletown, people would tell me, ‘You’ve got to find a way to get out of here.’ My thoughts on that? It’s toxic and it’s not the message I will ever spread to young girls and boys growing up where I did.”

But that wasn’t Vance’s position in previous years.

• During a Feb. 3, 2017, discussion at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, titled “America in the Trump Era,” Vance said while talented or fortunate people should return to their communities, he added “that people who live in really high unemployment areas should be moving to urban centers where there’s not so much unemployment, where there’s a lot more economic opportunity.”

He said at that event “there isn’t a whole lot of reasons to stay” in “places like eastern Kentucky,” where his mother and her family were from, and that people should move to New York City or San Francisco “where there are more opportunities” but probably can’t because of the high rent there.

Asked about a move being disruptive to a family, Vance said: “My sense is the positives probably outweigh the downsides.”

• During an Aug. 12, 2016, interview with HuffPost Politics to promote his best-selling memoir “Hillbilly Elergy,” Vance said “my people” have “really struggled to adapt to the new economy. So they’ve seen the difficulty of finding jobs where maybe 50 years ago there was higher geographic mobility they would be moving to the new land of opportunity. Maybe that’s California or Colorado. There is a lot less movement.”

• In a Sept. 22, 2014, column for the National Review, Vance wrote: “For the multigenerational poor, home might be the worst enemy. Appalachian loyalty to the land is the stuff of legend, yet the stubbornness of poverty in the region means that those who stay risk being poor forever.”

He added the roads in Appalachia paved by government funds in an attempt to provide opportunity were best if used to leave those areas.

“The best and most lasting effect of those roads was to give people a faster way out,” he wrote. “If we cannot improve the urban ghetto or the mountain hollow — and the evidence suggests we can’t — then the best anti-poverty program is a ticket to somewhere else.”

Vance himself left Middletown to serve four years in the Marines, got a law degree from Yale in 2013 and worked as a venture capitalist in California until he moved back to Ohio in 2017. He has owned a house in Washington, D.C., since 2014, and it was his primary residence until 2018.

Vance’s website states he returned to Ohio in 2017 to “start a Cincinnati-based business that focused on growing companies that (creates) well-paying jobs.”

But Vance wrote in a March 2017 New York Times column that he was moving to the Columbus area to create “an organization to combat Ohio’s opioid epidemic.” That organization has come under scrutiny.

Vance’s voter registration records show he actually moved to Cincinnati in May 2018.

He operates Narya Capital, a venture capitalist firm that is incorporated in Delaware.

Vance is running against U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, the Democratic nominee, for the open Senate seat. Polls show a tight race between Vance and Ryan with the latter raising significantly more money in a Republican-controlled state.

Ryan hasn’t stopped campaigning and advertising since winning the May primary, while Vance took a break after capturing the Republican nomination in May and didn’t resume campaigning until a few weeks ago. He has a rally next week in Liberty with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Asked to comment on the seemingly conflicting views, Vance’s campaign provided a written statement from the candidate: “Ohioans are unfortunately leaving our state in search of economic opportunities because career politicians like Tim Ryan sold out our manufacturing base to China and destroyed our communities with their left wing policies. I have always encouraged Ohioans who have left to return home and invest in Ohio communities. That’s what I did and I’m proud to call Ohio home. All three of my kids were born here, I’ve built my business here and in the Senate, I’ll fight to expand opportunities for every Ohioan.”

Izzi Levy, Ryan’s campaign spokeswoman, said: “San Francisco fraud J.D. Vance has so little regard for the people of Ohio that he thinks he can trick Ohioans into thinking he’s just like any normal person. But Ohio voters see through his schtick. They know Vance left Ohio for California and made millions investing in companies that profit from globalization and free trade and that when he did move back here, the only person his sham nonprofit helped was himself.”

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