Joe Manchin Shocks Nation: Files as Independent!

Joe Manchin files as independent, leaving Democratic Party. Speculation grows about his future plans. Will he run for governor or Senate?

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Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has been a Democrat for his entire twenty-year political career, said on Friday that he is quitting the party and registering as an independent. This move has sparked rumors that Manchin may run for governor this year or for another term in the Senate.

“I have chosen to register as an independent with no party affiliation and continue to fight for America’s sensible majority in order to stay true to myself and remain committed to put country before party,” Manchin said in a statement.

Hoppy Kercheval, a veteran West Virginia radio broadcaster, was the first to report on Manchin’s relocation. Manchin will still caucus with Senate Democrats despite switching parties, according to his office.

Manchin said in November of last year that he will not run for a third term in 2024, but his choice to switch parties has raised new concerns about his political future.

The secretary of state’s office states that the deadline for an independent to register to run for office in West Virginia this year is August 1.

Manchin, 76, was elected governor of West Virginia in 2005 and held the position until 2010, when he was chosen in a special election to take the Senate seat left empty by the passing of renowned Democrat Robert Byrd. In 2012, Manchin was elected to the full Senate, and in 2018, he was re-elected.

But with the state becoming ruby red due to Donald Trump’s ascent in 2016, he defeated Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey by just over 20,000 votes, or 3 percentage points. In West Virginia, Trump received around 70% of the vote in 2020.

Trump’s support helped the incumbent governor, Jim Justice, secure the Republican nomination for the Senate earlier this month. Justice was expected to replace Manchin in the fall. But if Manchin chooses to run as an independent for reelection, his unexpected choice would upend that campaign.

A more probable possibility is that Manchin runs for governor, a position that would put him up against both the Democratic candidate, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, and the Republican contender, Morrisey.

Manchin has until June 1 to change his party affiliation if he intends to run independently for either office. According to West Virginia state law, the secretary of state has the right to reject a candidate’s certification if they registered to vote with a different party within 60 days of filing to run.

Manchin becomes the second Democratic senator from the Senate to become an independent in recent years. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona said in late 2022 that she was quitting the party to become an independent. Later, she said she will not run for reelection to the Senate.

Manchin has been the most conservative member of the Senate Democratic Caucus for many years, establishing a reputation for sticking to his principles and enjoying his position as a thorn in the side of both the party leadership and Presidents Obama and Joe Biden.

Furthermore, while voting with Biden on significant legislation such as the Science Act, CHIPS, and Inflation Reduction Act, Manchin has often been a vocal opponent of the incumbent president.

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