Congress, Elections

Sen. Joe Manchin will not seek reelection in 2024

MORGANTOWN – Sen. Joe Manchin announced on Thursday that he will not seek reelection to the U.S. Senate.

The wording of his announcement, in a video posted on social media and released to the press with a written transcript, indicates he is not retiring, and may fuel speculation about his No Labels ties and plans.

“After months of deliberation and long conversations with my family, I believe in my heart of hearts that I have accomplished what I set out to do for West Virginia,” he said. “I have made one of the toughest decisions of my life and decided that I will not be running for re-election to the United States Senate, but what I will be doing is traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.”

He continued later in his announcement, “I know our country isn’t as divided as Washington wants us to believe. We share common values of family, freedom, democracy, dignity and a belief that together we can overcome any challenge. We need to take back America and not let this divisive hatred further pull us apart.

“Public service has and continues to drive me every day. That is the vow that I made to my father 40 years ago, and I intend to keep that vow until my dying day.”

Then-Gov. Manchin won his Senate seat in a special election in 2010, following the death of Robert C. Byrd. He won reelection in 2012 and 2018. It’s been widely reported he would face an uphill battle in 2024, having won narrowly in 2018 and with Republicans Gov. Jim Justice and Rep. Alex Mooney vying for the GOP nomination this time.

Manchin recounted what first led him to seek public office – when a state representative came to his father’s Farmington furniture store seeking a favor, and telling his father, John Manchin, “You owe me for all the things I’ve done for your little town.”

When the man left, Manchin said, “I turned to my dad and said, ‘Now wait a minute, isn’t helping Farmington that man’s job?’”

“That moment defined the difference between self-service and public service,” Manchin said. “When I told my dad that I was going to run for office, he said, ‘Politics is a bad business, son, I’m telling you right now. Stay out of it.’ I didn’t disagree that often with my father but that time I did.”

Manchin reminded his father of the inspirational JFK quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

That worked, and John Manchin gave Joe his support, “if I made a vow to serve all people – friend or foe, and not just myself.”

Manchin has always prided himself on working across party lines to get things done – in the state Legislature, as governor and in the Senate. “Many times, this approach has landed me in hot water, but the fight to unite has been well worth it,” he said.

West Virginia’s current progress plays a role in his decision, he said, along with the nation’s sharp political divide. “Every incentive in Washington is designed to make our politics extreme. The growing divide between Democrats and Republicans is paralyzing Congress and worsening our nation’s problems. The majority of Americans are just plain worn out.”

Inflation, national debt, the border crisis and the illegal drug flow, public safety and the wars in Gaza and Ukraine are all challenges that cross party lines, he said.

“To the West Virginians who have put their trust in me and fought side by side to make our state better – it has been an honor of my life to serve you,” he said. “Thank you.”

After his announcement, statements from his political colleagues began flowing. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said, “Thank you Joe and Gayle for your years of service to our beloved West Virginia. I’ve enjoyed serving alongside you — our senior senator. And as you said, we still have much work ahead of us. Thank you for your friendship, Joe. I look forward to that continuing.”

Manchin supported Justice’s first election bid when Justice was a Democrat. Friction arose after Justice’s party switch, but common interests for the state has kept them working together. Justice said Thursday, “Sen. Joe Manchin and I have not always agreed on policy and politics, but we’re both lifelong West Virginians who love this state beyond belief, and I respect and thank him for his many years of public service.”

State Sen. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, said, “I’ve had the honor and privilege of serving with Sen. Manchin my entire political career – from his time as secretary of state, through both of his gubernatorial terms, and while serving in the United States Senate. The senator and I have agreed on many things, such as his leadership in the fight for our government to keep the promise of lifetime healthcare and pensions for coal miners.

“However, as happens in politics, we had disagreements as well, Caputo said. “When that happened, we always disagreed with respect and civility. I will always respect him for the example he has set for his colleagues of how to discuss points of difference and overlap so that we can find some middle ground. Our country and our state need more of those discussions. … I wish him and Gayle all the best in whatever the future may bring to them and their family.”

In a story assessing what Manchin’s announcement might mean, The Associated Press noted that 2024 was shaping up to be a tough election cycle for Senate Democrats. The party will be forced to defend 23 seats, including three held by independents, compared to just 10 seats for Republicans. Manchin is one of just three Democratic senators up for reelection in 2024 who represent a state won by Trump, a Republican, in the 2020 election.

And Manchin’s talk of traveling the country prompted Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska to comment moments after the announcement that Manchin’s message sounded like someone who would be running for higher office.

During President Joe Biden’s first two terms, the AP said, the conservative Manchin played a key role in the 50-50 split Senate. Along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, a Democrat who switched to an independent after last year’s midterms, he helped water down much of Biden’s social spending agenda. He has frequently clashed with members of his own party over his strong support for coal and other fossil fuels.

His power diminished somewhat after Democrats picked up a seat in Pennsylvania in 2022, winning a 51-49 edge, the AP said, but rebounded a bit after Sinema switched parties, though she made clear that she would not caucus with Republicans. Sinema is also up for reelection in 2024 but has not yet announced her plans.

Mooney used the announcement to promote his own campaign over that of Justice, calling himself “the only true conservative for U.S. Senate who will fight back against the Biden agenda.”

And National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Steve Daines said simply, “We like our odds in West Virginia.”