Sen. Joe Manchin Leaves Democratic Party, Registers as Independent

Jimmy Williams

Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia has announced his departure from the Democratic Party, officially registering as an independent. This move comes after a long tenure in the party, including two terms as governor of West Virginia and over a decade in the Senate since his election in 2010.

Manchin stated his disillusionment with both major parties, citing their failure to address national issues due to partisan extremism. “Today, our national politics are broken and neither party is willing to compromise to find common ground. 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 said.

Despite leaving the Democratic Party, Manchin will continue to caucus with the Democrats, confirmed by his communications director, Charlotte Laracy. This mirrors the approach of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., who left the Democratic Party in 2022 but still works with them on committee assignments. The Senate’s other independents, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, were elected as independents and similarly caucus with the Democrats.

Manchin’s future role as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee remains unclear, although precedents suggest he could retain his position. His independent status follows his announcement in November 2023 that he would not seek re-election, marking the end of a long era of Democratic representation for West Virginia, a state that has seen a significant shift towards Republican dominance in recent years.

The race to succeed Manchin in the Senate has been rated as Solid Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. Manchin has endorsed Democrat Glenn Elliott, the mayor of Wheeling, W.Va., in the race against Republican Gov. Jim Justice.

Throughout his time in Congress, Manchin has often expressed dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party, particularly regarding its stance on fossil fuels and energy policy. He has been a vocal advocate for fossil fuel industries, reflecting his financial ties to the coal industry through his stake in Enersystems Inc., a company he co-founded. His support for fossil fuels was evident in his pivotal role in shaping and eventually passing the Inflation Reduction Act, which included guarantees for future oil and gas lease sales.

Manchin’s departure from the Democratic Party underscores the ongoing political realignment in West Virginia and highlights the growing trend of politicians moving towards independent status amidst increasing partisan polarization. His decision will undoubtedly influence both state and national politics as the 2024 election approaches.

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