Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin will not seek re-election, giving the GOP a chance to gain ground

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin West Virginia announced Thursday that he would not seek re-election In 2024That gives Republicans a prime chance to pick up a seat in a heavily GOP state.

Mnuchin, 76, said he made the decision after months of counseling and long conversations with his family.

“I believe in my heart that I have accomplished what I set out to do for West Virginia,” he said in a statement. Re-election to the United States Senate, but what I will do is travel around the country and speak to see if there is interest in building a movement to mobilize the middle class and bring Americans together.

His decision to step down, while completely unexpected, severely hampers Democratic hopes of holding the coal country seat and marks the end of an era in West Virginia. President Donald TrumpMost Loyal States. For the past few years, Manchin has been the only Democrat elected to statewide office in West Virginia.

But his statement also fueled growing speculation that Manchin has national political ambitions. In recent months, he has teased the 2024 presidential campaign Independent candidate, it is unclear what his voter base is. Along those lines, a third-party presidential candidate, retiring Utah Sen. The group pushing for Manchin to partner with Mitt Romney filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday to form a formal drafting committee.

Manchin’s announcement also strengthens the challenge for Democrats to hold onto their 51-49 Senate majority. Even before Manchin announced his resignation, 2024 was shaping up to be a tough election cycle for Senate Democrats. In states won by Trump in 2020, the party will be forced to defend 23 seats, including three independents and three held by Democrats, compared to just 10 for Republicans.

Republican contenders have long jockeyed for Manchin’s seat. GOP Rep. Alex Mooney Jumped into the race Less than two weeks after winning a fifth term in the House in November 2022. The most popular two-term Republican governor is Jim Justice Joined the Senate race Earlier this year, Trump made the endorsement, increasing the challenges for Manchin as he considers whether to seek re-election.

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Justice noted in a statement Thursday that he and the senator “have always disagreed on policy and politics.”

“But we are both lifelong West Virginians who love this state beyond belief, and I respect and thank him for his years of public service,” the governor said.

The drafting group pushing the Manchin-Romney ticket plans to publicly launch next week a new website titled “Getting America Back on Track,” a person with direct knowledge of the group told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. To reveal internal planning prior to launch.

Initially, the drafting effort plans to raise $1 million for a budget to show that the Romney-Manchin ticket has a path to victory as part of the No Labels movement, according to the person.

Romney and Manchin have not signed on to the initiative, the person said. But the group hopes to build the presidential campaign infrastructure for Romney and Manchin and ultimately court No Labels delegates to win the nomination at the March 2024 convention in Dallas.

No Labels hailed Manchin as “a tireless voice for America’s common sense majority” in a statement Thursday.

“We will decide by early 2024 whether we will nominate a ticket for the Unity presidency and who will be on it,” the organization said.

Manchin, a conservative Democrat, was an important vote and constant headache for his party in the first two years. President Joe Bidenterm of While the Senate was split 50-50, Democrats controlled it over the merits of Vice President Kamala Harris. tie voteManchin used his political power to shape legislation to his liking.

Arizona’s Democratic Sen. Along with Kirsten Cinema, who switched to independent after last year’s midterms, she helped cut a large part of Biden’s social spending plan. He has often clashed with members of his own party over his strong support for coal and other fossil fuels.

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Days before last year’s midterms, he called Biden “Cavalier” and “Divorced from Reality” After pledging to shut down coal-fired power plants, the future will have to rely heavily on wind and solar power. He issued a public apology to Biden, and the White House acknowledged it by releasing a statement saying, “I’m sorry if anyone was offended by these comments.”

Biden issued a statement Thursday praising Manchin for decades of public service.

“For more than forty years — as a state legislator, a secretary of state, a governor and a senator — Joe Manchin has dedicated himself to serving the people of West Virginia he loves. During my time as vice president and now as president, Joe and I have worked together to make things happen for hardworking families. ,” Biden said.

Manchin’s announcement comes a year later Democrats increased their Senate majority 51-49 by flipping the Republican-held seat in Pennsylvania. The practical effect of that victory was that it gave Democrats the ability to pass bills while losing a vote in their caucus — fueling Manchin’s power to single-handedly overturn some of his party’s priorities.

Manchin regained that influence after he switched parties, though he made it clear he would not join Republicans. Sinema is also up for re-election in 2024, but has yet to announce his plans.

Robert C. After Byrd’s death, he won a special election in 2010 and entered the Senate. He won re-election in both 2012 and 2018, the latter his toughest campaign in his three-plus decades in West Virginia politics. He defeated Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey by just over 3 percentage points.

Registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans during Manchin’s first two Senate campaigns, but things have changed since then. Right now, about 40% of registered voters are Republicans, 31% are Democrats and 24% are independent.

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Both houses of the legislature have Republican majorities, and Trump won the state in landslides in 2016 and 2020.

Manchin’s penchant for not following his fellow Democrats on some key votes has caused anger and strained relations within his own party. That prompted independent Sen. Bernie Sanders to back a primary challenger to Manchin in 2024.

Manchin’s rift with the White House prompted Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to publicly invite him to join the GOP. Manchin was firm there too, insisting that he was seen as a Democrat.

During Manzin’s first two terms in the Senate, West Virginia lost thousands of coal jobs as companies and utilities explored using other energy sources like natural gas, solar and wind. Manchin later promoted the Biden administration’s plans to engage the state in clean energy development. But his push for faster permits for natural gas pipelines and other energy projects — including a planned pipeline in his home state — failed.

Under Trump, Manchin was the only Democrat to vote for the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanagh in 2018 and three Democrats who supported Neil Gorsuch in 2017. Repeal the Affordable Care Act passed under President Barack Obama.

In a statement Thursday, Manchin’s West Virginia counterpart, Republican U.S. Sen. Shelly Moore thanked Capito for her many years of service.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with you, our senior senator,” he said. “Like you said, we still have a lot of work to do. Thanks for your friendship, Joe. I look forward to it continuing.

West Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Mike Pushkin called Manzin “larger than life in the United States Senate” and that his name has been synonymous with West Virginia politics and government for 41 years.

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Associated Press writers Steve Peoples in New York and Farnoosh Amiri in Washington contributed to this report.

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