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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

J.D. Vance, venture capitalist and author of "Hillbilly Elegy," has told friends and colleagues that he plans to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Axios has learned from multiple sources.

Why it matters: He'll need to reconcile his growing antagonism to Big Tech with a career that's been facilitated by it.

State of play: Vance, who's been both celebrated and criticized for his "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" ethos, would be entering a crowded GOP primary field.

  • His goal, according to one source, is to present himself as a bridge between Trump and establishment Republicans, particularly because it may be tough to out-Trump former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel.
  • That said, he's sought Trump's counsel. Vance recently met privately with the former president at Mar-a-Lago, with Peter Thiel in tow, per multiple sources.

Resumé: Vance began his VC career with Mithril Capital, a Silicon Valley firm founded by Thiel.

  • In 2017 he joined Revolution, the Washington, D.C.-based firm co-founded by Steve Case, to work on a Rise of the Rest initiative that sought to fund startups outside of traditional VC ecosystems.
  • Then, two years later, he and Rise of the Rest colleague Colin Greenspon left to co-found Cincinnati-based Narya, which raised over $90 million for a debut fund from investors like Thiel, Marc Andreessen, Eric Schmidt and Scott Dorsey.

Both Rise of the Rest and Narya fit into Vance's personal narrative of helping seed success in left-behind geographies. For example, the firms were early investors in AppHarvest, a Moorehead, Ky.-based indoor tomato-grower that later went public via SPAC.

  • AppHarvest yesterday announced Vance's departure from its board.
  • One media report suggested the decision was tied to Vance's recent tweets about the Georgia voting law, but Axios has learned that Vance informed AppHarvest of his intentions just before a board meeting during the week of March 22. He told fellow directors that he was likely to run, and didn't want AppHarvest to become politicized.

Candidate Vance would need to at least take a leave of absence from Narya, which hasn't finished investing its fund.

  • Expectations are that Narya's two other partners — Greenspon and former VentureOhio CEO Falon Donohue — would hold down the fort, with Thiel's blessing.
  • Vance declined comment, and has not publicly discussed his electoral plans, while neither Greenspon nor Thiel responded to Axios' inquiries.

Delicate dance: Vance made his name as an author, but he's made his career as a venture capitalist, backed by many of the coastal billionaires he now plans to rhetorically run against.

  • Earlier this week Vance tweeted: "Establishment Republican apologies for our oligarchy should always come with the following disclaimer: 'Big Tech pays my salary.'"
  • Yet Vance's salary, as a partner with Narya, has literally been paid, at least in part, by two directors at Facebook and the former CEO of Google.

The bottom line: Expect campaign rivals to pounce on the contradictions, while the eloquent Vance will try talk his way around it — banking on the fact that Ohio twice went for a populist billionaire.

Go deeper

Bernie Sanders: U.S. must recognize that "Palestinian rights matter"

Sen. Bernie Sanders. Photo: Stefani Reynolds via Getty Images

The United States must encourage an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East and adopt an "evenhanded approach" that recognizes Palestinians and Israelis have a right to "live in peace and security," Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) wrote in a New York Times opinion on Friday.

Driving the news: Violence escalated this week after Israelis intensified efforts to evict Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem. Hamas fired rockets and Israel massed troops, leaving more than 125 Palestinians and seven people in Israel dead.

3 hours ago - Technology

Exclusive: Uber makes new hire, launches anti-racism campaigns

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Eager to show progress on the pledge to make its platform and business anti-racist, Uber on Friday announced new anti-racism driver and rider campaigns, as well as fresh internal hiring practices, Axios was first to report.

Why it matters: Uber is one of the biggest ride hailing companies in the world. Its decisions impact the millions that use the platform, where drivers and riders alike say they have experienced racism.

Ex-Gaetz associate admits to sex trafficking, will cooperate with federal prosecutors

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl) speaks during the "Save America Summit" at the Trump National Doral golf resort on April 09, 2021 in Doral, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Staff via Getty Images

Joel Greenberg, a former associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), has agreed to cooperate with federal investigators and admitted to a variety of federal charges including sex trafficking a minor, the New York Times reported Friday citing court papers.

Why it matters: Investigators believe Greenberg introduced women to Gaetz for paid sex and are looking into the Florida congressman's alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Greenberg could be a key witness as federal prosecutors decide whether to charge Gaetz.