Masters and Vance campaigns not defined by their business backgrounds

Photographic illustration of a briefcase showing Republican candidates JD Vance and Blake Masters for the US Senate

JD Vance (left) and Blake Masters (right). Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Drew Angerer and Mario Tama via Getty Images

Venture capitalists Blake Masters and JD Vance are Republicans running for the US Senate, but many voters in Arizona and Ohio may not be aware of their business backgrounds.

Why it matters: This is a departure from traditional campaign strategies for newcomers to politics who have spent most of their careers in the private sector. If successful, it could represent a new normal.

What you should know: Neither Masters nor Vance has hid from their venture capital past, with each of their campaign websites featuring snippets of resumes. But the candidates haven’t talked much about that past, even in public appearances.

  • Nor have they been coerced into it on a regular basis by their opponents, unlike what Mitt Romney was confronted with in 2012 by both Newt Gingrich and Barack Obama.
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In Arizona: During a televised debate last week, neither Blake Masters nor his Democratic opponent (incumbent Senator Mark Kelly) mentioned Masters’ short stint as an entrepreneur or his subsequent eight years at Thiel Capital.

  • Jeremy Duda, a reporter from Axios Phoenix, tells me that this was par for the course for this campaign.

In Ohio: Vance’s opponent, Rep. Tim Ryan, has tried harder than Kelly to make venture capital an issue, including through a “San Francisco Vulture Capitalist” ad he was asked about during a debate last week.

  • But Ryan couldn’t get over the landing, insisting Vance had “invested in China” without being able to name the company he was referring to.
  • That’s likely because Vance has never backed a China-based company through its venture capital funds, according to a review of records.
  • Instead, Ryan apparently referred to two companies in Vance’s financial disclosure forms that source some equipment and/or products from China, both of which are affiliated with Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund (which Vance joined in 2017 and left two years later to maintain his to start your own). festivals).
  • But that’s a bit like saying an investment in Ford Motor Co. is an “investment in China” because Ford sources some EV battery packs from Chinese suppliers. Additionally, one of the two investments made by Revolution co-founder Steve Case was made before Vance even joined the firm, but was included in the fund as a contributed asset. The other is a Salt Lake City-based apparel maker that has around 22% of its products manufactured in factories in Shanghai and Tianjin (the investment was made just before Vance left Revolution).
  • Most importantly, the entire investment exchange took just a few minutes — watch here from 3 p.m — and was hardly one of the defining moments of the debate (regardless of who voters thought won).
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Neither Masters nor Vance responded to Axios’ request for comment on the story.

The bottom line: Venture capital will not be up for election next month, although there will be two venture capitalists.

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Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected to reflect that Mitt Romney ran against Newt Gingrich and Barack Obama in 2012, not 2016.


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