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A day on the campaign trail with J.D. Vance as he meets with voters and joins Donald Trump for rally

J.D. Vance, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, is greeted with applause as he walks into a large, open-air facility at Willoway Nurseries in Avon Saturday morning.

Vance mingled with the crowd as his supporters lined up to get selfies and to ask Vance to sign their copy of his book “Hillbilly Elegy.”

He told the crowd he’s ready to take on what he calls “crazy” federal policies dealing with trade, immigration, and energy.

“We're not going to rebuild that prosperity unless we stop the stupid decisions, unless we stop putting the interests of the world first and start putting the interests of American citizens first,” Vance said.

As he met with local media, Vance said these policies have resulted in challenges like inflation that have hit people all around Ohio.

“In other words, we should get back to like common sense policies that were working, that can work again. And I think that the message is pretty simple, pretty direct. And hopefully it will carry the day,” said Vance.

He said these are the topics he hears about the most from voters as he travels the state.

Sue Nugent of Vermillion echoed that sentiment after the campaign event.

Nugent and her husband started what she described as a “small, mom and pop” used car dealership a few years ago, fulfilling a dream they’d been working towards.

But Nugent said the current state of the economy has hurt their customer base, creating a ripple effect and causing concerns for their future.

“I would like to see the costs of gas come down, the cost of groceries come down, the ability for our customers to live a normal life like they were two years ago because it affects all of us,” said Nugent.

Nugent went to the event with a group of friends who shared similar stories and expressed their appreciation to hear directly from a U.S. Senate candidate.

From Avon, Vance went on to other campaign meetings and interviews throughout the day, leading up to a rally in Youngstown with former President Donald Trump.

As a few thousand people began to file into the Covelli Centre, those in attendance said Vance will go to the Senate to represent their interests.

That included Angela Phelps of Mansfield, who said she wants to see more unity among federal leaders, and she believed Vance can help make that happen.

“I want to vote for someone who wants America to be, not only successful, but in a position of power. Where, guess what? When we're in power, we can help other people,” said Phelps.

Rick Papp of Bristolville said he’s very familiar with Vance’s Democratic opponent — Congressman Tim Ryan — since Papp lives just north of Ryan’s district, a historically Democratic region that has flipped Republican.

“People just kept voting the same way and the same way. I think Donald Trump opened our eyes to see what it really means to be a conservative and what our real values are,” said Papp.

As Vance took the stage in Youngstown, he told the crowd that Ryan is falsely trying to portray himself as a moderate — who splits from Democratic leaders — to appeal to Trump voters.

“I’m here to say we need to get back to the real policies of Donald Trump, not fake Tim Ryan trying to pretend to be somebody he’s not,” said Vance.

In 2016, Vance had proclaimed himself as a “never-Trump guy.” But he reversed course after jumping into the U.S. Senate race, and fought hard to gain Trump’s support. Vance ultimately got Trump's endorsement just weeks before the May Republican primary. Vance has also joined Trump in denying the results of President Biden's win in the 2020 election, despite no evidence that there was significant fraud in that vote.

At the rally, Trump emphasized how important a Vance win would be for Republicans.

“Because J.D. Vance is going to clinch the Senate for the Republicans. This is a very important race. This is a great person who I've really gotten to know. Yeah, he said some bad things about me, but that was before he knew me. And then he fell in love,” said Trump.

The Mahoning Valley could be a key region in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race. Although the area has voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, Tim Ryan has won re-election in his congressional district that has spanned most of the valley since 2002.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.