Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder, donated $10 million to a super PAC seeking to recruit author J.D. Vance to run for the Republican Senate nomination in Ohio. 

The super PAC Protect Ohio Values, which describes itself as a network of grassroots conservatives encouraging Vances candidacy, also received a significant donation from the conservative mega-donor Mercer Family, Bryan Lanza, a communications adviser to the group, told The Hill, though did not say how much the Mercers donation was worth. 

Thiel’s contribution was first reported on Monday by the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Vance is a venture capitalist and author, who rose to prominence for his 2016 memoir Hillbilly Elegy that has since been made into a Netflix film of the same name. He grew up in Middletown, Ohio and now lives in Cincinnati. 

Vance previously considered a Senate bid in 2018 to challenge Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownGeraldo Rivera won’t run for Ohio Senate seatOn The Money: House passes COVID-19 relief bill in partisan vote | Biden to sign Friday | Senate confirms Fudge to lead HUDSenate panel advances Biden’s picks to lead SEC, consumer bureauMORE (D-Ohio), though he ultimately declined. That hasnt stopped efforts to recruit him into the states 2022 Senate race.

The seats current occupant, Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOvernight Defense: Top GOP senators demand answers on extended Guard deployment, Capitol fencing | Guard costs estimated at 1M | House panel to take up 2002 war authorization repealTop GOP senators: Capitol Police failing to justify beefed-up securityThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation – Biden: Back to ‘normal’ still means ‘beat the virus’MORE (R-Ohio), announced earlier this year that he will not run for reelection in 2022, setting off a scramble to replace him. The Republican primary field is expected to be a crowded one, and some high-profile candidates have already jumped in, including former state Treasurer Josh Mandel and former Ohio GOP chair Jane Timken. 

Mike Gibbons, an Ohio businessman who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican Senate nomination in 2018, is also believed to be nearing a campaign announcement. On Monday, he commenced a listening tour with voters in the state in a sign that a formal launch could be coming soon. 

There are also a handful of Democrats who are seen as potential contenders for Portmans Senate seat, including Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanTim Ryan rips GOP: ‘Stop talking about Dr. Seuss’ABC names new deputy political director, weekend White House correspondentThreats to lawmakers up 93.5 percent in last two monthsMORE (D-Ohio), who is believed to be nearing a campaign announcement. Others include former Ohio Health Department Director Amy Acton, former state Treasurer Kevin Boyce and Ohio state House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes. 

The Senate race in Ohio is expected to be one of the closest-watched contests of the 2022 midterm election cycle. The state has drifted to the right in recent years, handing two victories to former President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Biden to hit road, tout COVID-19 relief lawOregon senator takes center stage in Democratic filibuster debateJuan Williams: Trump’s jealous rants can’t hide his failuresMORE in 2016 and 2020 and dealing a series of setbacks to Democrats in statewide races. Brown, who was elected to a third term in 2018, is now the only remaining statewide elected Democrat there.

But Portmans retirement has given Democrats some hope of competing in Ohio next year, with party strategists believing that Browns 2018 win can offer a blueprint for Democrats in upcoming statewide elections. 

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, currently puts the 2022 Ohio Senate race in its Lean Republican column, meaning that the GOP currently holds an advantage but could find itself in competitive territory.