Joe Manchin leaves the Democratic Party amid speculation he’ll run for West Virginia governor

The retiring senator has been weighing whether to run for governor as he grows increasingly dissatisfied with his party

Eric Garcia
Friday 31 May 2024 16:34 BST
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Senator Joe Manchin announced on Friday that he had left the Democratic Party to become an independent as many have wondered whether he will run for governor of his home state of West Virginia.

Mr Manchin was the last Democrat in a statewide office and announced in November that he would not seek re-election. He announced his decision in a statement on Friday.

“Throughout my days in elected office, I have always been proud of my commitment to common sense, bipartisanship and my desire to bring people together,” he said. “It’s who I am. It’s who I will always be. I have never seen America through a partisan lens.”

Mr Manchin decried extremism on both sides of the political aisle.

“Today, our national politics are broken and neither party is willing to compromise to find common ground,” he said. “To stay true to myself and remain committed to put country before party, I have decided to register as an independent with no party affiliation and continue to fight for America’s sensible majority.”

He had previously flirted with running for president as an independent or as a candidate through No Labels, a centrist organization that promoted the idea of a bipartisan unity ticket. Some have speculated that Mr Manchin might run for governor as an independent. Inside Elections’ Nathan Gonzales flagged on X that unaffiliated candidates must file by August 1.

But earlier this week, he told The Herald-Dispatch he would support Democratic nominee Steve Williams.

Mr Manchin was often the most conservative senator in the Democratic caucus, alongside Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who became an independent in 2022.

The two often opposed major spending initiatives and Mr Manchin announced on Fox News that he opposed Build Back Better, President Joe Biden’s major social spending bill. Mr Manchin hails from West Virginia, a state where every county voted for Donald Trump and has long relied on the coal industry.

The two-term governor who first won his senate seat in a special election in 2010 co-founded a coal-mining firm called Enersystems prior to his time in politics. Many progressive activists accused him of being too friendly with the energy industry that dominated his home state.

Later, Mr Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer negotiated the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest piece of legislation to combat climate change. But Mr Manchin often objected to the implementation of the legislation.

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