Updated May 31, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Joe Manchin leaves the Democratic Party, files as independent

Joe Manchin

Photo: Apu Gomes/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia officially left the Democratic Party on Friday and registered as an independent.

Why it matters: Manchin, who flirted with an independent presidential bid earlier this year, has said he's not running for Senate re-election. But leaving the party could give him the flexibility to change tack and run for Senate or West Virginia governor as an independent.

The intrigue: June 1 is West Virginia's deadline for changing party affiliation in time to run for office this fall. The deadline to file for governor or Senate is Aug. 1.

  • Manchin is more serious about a potential governor's run than a Senate bid and is being urged by Democrats in West Virginia to jump into the race, according to two people familiar with the matter.
  • Manchin beat the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, in his 2018 Senate race.

What they're saying: In a statement revealing his decision, Manchin accused both the Democratic and Republican parties of prioritizing "partisan extremism" and "jeopardizing our democracy."

  • "Today, our national politics are broken and neither party is willing to compromise to find common ground," Manchin said.
  • "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."

The big picture: Manchin, a lifelong centrist Democrat who served two terms as West Virginia governor before his election to the Senate in 2010, has at times been highly critical of the Biden administration.

  • As a swing vote in the narrowly divided Senate, Manchin played an outsized role in crafting — and dramatically scaling down — Biden's signature piece of legislation: the Inflation Reduction Act.
  • He has since feuded with the Biden administration over the implementation of the massive climate and energy law, accusing the president of pursuing a "radical climate agenda."
  • Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), a like-minded centrist, also left the Democratic Party in 2022 and will not seek re-election, citing similar reasons as Manchin.

What to watch: Manchin will continue caucusing with Senate Democrats, joining fellow independent Sens. Sinema, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Angus King (I-Maine.).

Go deeper: Centrist extinction looms as Sinema, Manchin, Romney call it quits

Editor's note. This story has been updated with new details.

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