MORGANTOWN – Speculation about the next career step for Sen. Joe Manchin took a new twist over the weekend as the New York Times reported – subsequently echoed by other media – that some Manchin allies have said he may be enticed to become WVU’s next president.
Manchin’s spokesperson and a WVU statement did not address the report when asked about it Monday.
Manchin hasn’t given much concrete information about his next steps. He’s up for reelection to his Senate seat in 2024 and facing strong potential Republican challengers in Gov. Jim Justice and Rep. Alex Mooney – the two top contenders in the GOP primary.
The most recent MetroNews West Virginia Poll shows Justice leading Mooney 58% to 26%. In a race against Manchin, Justice leads Manchin 51% to 38%, while Manchin has a slight edge over Mooney, 45% to 41%.
Manchin has said he will decide if he’s running by late this year or early next.
Another possibility frequently raised is Manchin leading a third-party, centrist No Labels ticket in the presidential race. Fellow Democrats, though, have openly feared Manchin would act as a spoiler to help unseat President Joe Biden – tipping the election to (for now) leading GOP candidate former President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, WVU is experiencing turmoil as it proceeds through Academic Transformation – with programs and faculty on the cutting board, pending the Board of Governors vote on final recommendations from the provost’s office on Sept. 15.
At the end of July, the BOG voted to extend President Gordon Gee’s contract through June 30, 2025, at which time Gee plans to retire.
The Dominion Post asked Manchin and WVU about the speculation raised in the Times.
Manchin spokeswoman Sam Runyon said, “Sen. Manchin is laser focused on delivering for West Virginia and has not made any decision about his future plans. As a graduate of West Virginia University, he remains steadfast in his commitment to the university and their mission to educate the next generation of leaders.”
WVU said, “Gordon Gee is West Virginia University’s president through June 2025, but our Board of Governors recognizes its most significant work post-academic transformation is the search for our next president. The BOG will look at best practices and hire a firm for a national search with no preconceived outcomes or candidates.”