Sen. Manchin not running for governor

CHARLESTON — After months of speculation, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin waved off the prospect of running for a possible third term as governor of West Virginia in the Democratic primary.

In an announcement Tuesday morning through his Senate staff, Manchin said he would not seek a return to the governor’s office, instead choosing to use his position as a senior Democratic senator to help the state.

“I have always said that ‘public service is not self-service.’ So, when considering whether to run for Governor, I couldn’t focus just on which job I enjoyed the most, but on where I could be the most effective for the Mountain State,” Manchin said. “Ultimately, I believe my role as U.S. Senator allows me to position our state for success for the rest of this century.”

Manchin won his second six-year term to the U.S. Senate in 2018, defeating Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. He won a special election to the Senate seat held by the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd in 2010. Previously, Manchin served two terms as West Virginia’s governor in 2004 and 2008. He also served as Secretary of State, in the state Senate, and the House of Delegates.

“Serving as the Governor of this state was the greatest honor of my life,” Manchin said. “Nothing made my heart swell with pride more than bragging about the wonderful state I represented. However, in 2010, we lost West Virginia’s beloved U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, a legacy to West Virginia and a legacy to the U.S. Senate. Again, people from both sides of the aisle reached out to me to step up to the Senate, to carry the torch Senator Byrd had lit so long ago. That decision changed my life in ways I never imagined.

Manchin said he struggled with the decision, but ultimately felt he could continue to best help the state as one of its two senators. Manchin is the ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee which deals with coal and natural gas issues. Manchin is also still working on pension issues for retired coal miners, gun background check legislation with U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and protecting health care coverage for West Virginians.

“The Senate, as envisioned by our founders, is the greatest deliberative body in the world, and, when it is at its best, senators can transform the lives of people across America for the better,” Manchin said. “Whether that means protecting those with pre-existing conditions, ensuring healthcare and pensions for our miners, or building the roads and bridges, and broadband infrastructure that make our country competitive, we can make a difference here.”

Had Manchin defeated community organizer Stephen Smith or former economic development official Jody Murphy in the Democratic primary, it’s possible he would have faced Gov. Jim Justice in the general election. Manchin was one of several Democrats who recruited Justice to run for governor in 2016, defeating former Republican Senate President Bill Cole. Justice switched from Democrat to Republican in 2017. The following year, Justice fired Gayle Manchin — the wife of U.S. Sen. Manchin and the former secretary of the Department of Education and the Arts.

Manchin took a swipe at Justice, who is under fire for not following the state constitution and residing in the seat of government in Charleston.

“Those who know me know how much I loved being the Governor of West Virginia,” Manchin said. “I worked the daylights out of that job. I couldn’t wait to wake up in the Governor’s Mansion in the morning, and I didn’t want to go to bed at night, because there was always more that I could do for our state. And that is what it takes to be an effective Governor: relentless effort.”

According to the MetroNews/Dominion Post West Virginia Poll, Manchin would beat Justice in a hypothetical matchup 49 percent to 39 percent with 12 percent undecided. Manchin’s overall approval level also improved 7 percent between 2018 and 2019, with a 49 percent approval rate and a 37 percent disapproval rate.

“Our state is blessed with the resources and people to accomplish anything, and I am going to use every day I have left in the Senate to make sure West Virginians have that chance,” Manchin said. “I am grateful to be a public servant from West Virginia, and I can’t wait to continue fighting to make a difference as their United States Senator.”