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Manchin ditches Democrats, registers as independent

Centrist becomes latest ex-Democrat to register as independent; won't change Senate balance of power

Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia is seen in the Capitol on Jan. 23.
Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia is seen in the Capitol on Jan. 23. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia announced on Friday he has officially left the Democratic Party and filed as an independent.

Manchin, a lifelong Democrat who previously served two terms as governor of West Virginia, said that since his election to the Senate in 2010 he has “seen both the Democrat and Republican parties leave West Virginia and our country behind for partisan extremism while jeopardizing our democracy.”

“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,” Manchin said.

Charlotte Laracy, Manchin’s communications director, confirmed that he will continue to caucus with the Democrats. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., who made a similar decision to leave the party in 2022, continues to receive her committee assignments from the Democratic side though she technically doesn’t caucus with them. The caucus’s other two independents, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, were elected as independents.

There has been no formal announcement about Manchin’s role as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, although Sinema was allowed to take the gavel of the Military Construction-VA Appropriations Subcommittee earlier this year. And Sanders has been a committee chairman or ranking member for years; he currently chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Manchin announced in November 2023 that he would not seek another term. The move means that West Virginia, once home to numerous Democratic lawmakers, will be without a Democratic senator for the first time since 1958.

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

Manchin has made his dissatisfaction with the state of the Democratic Party known during his time in Congress, and garnered significant criticism from many within the party for his conservative stances. Manchin flirted with the idea of running for president on a third-party ticket before announcing in February that he didn’t want to be a “spoiler.”

His role as chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee drew pushback, largely due to his continued support for fossil fuels. Manchin still owns a stake and earns income in the coal company he founded with his brother, Enersystems Inc. He earned $389,987 in 2023 from his stake in the coal brokerage, according to financial disclosure forms he filed with the Senate.

He seemingly killed a Democratic reconciliation package in 2022 before reviving a smaller package which ultimately became the law known as the Inflation Reduction Act. That law included provisions guaranteeing future oil and gas lease sales, which Manchin said were necessary for energy independence. He has argued that the Biden administration has not faithfully implemented the portions of the law concerning fossil fuel development.

Aidan Quigley contributed to this report.