Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a maverick Democrat who frequently defies party leadership, said on Thursday that he is “thinking seriously” about leaving the party.
In an interview with West Virginia Metro News’ Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval, Manchin declared, “I’m not a Washington Democrat.” “I’ve been seriously considering becoming independent for a while now.”
Manchin and Democratic-turned-independent colleague Senator Kyrsten Sinema have been thorns in top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer’s side since the party won its majority in 2020. Democrats hold a 51-49 majority, including three independents who caucus with them.
Last month Manchin further stirred Democratic concerns with an appearance in the early-voting state of New Hampshire with the “No Labels” group, where he mulled starting a third-party presidential campaign in 2024, challenging Democratic President Joe Biden. Having a third-party candidate would “threaten” the two major political parties, Manchin said.
Manchin has used his influence to block legislation that he opposes – including expanding voting rights protections and child tax credits – and to ensure passage of bills he supports, such as a major tax and climate law that passed last summer.
He faces a tough re-election bid next year in Republican-leaning West Virginia, which former President Donald Trump won by almost 39 percentage points in 2020. Manchin has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but he would face an even steeper road if he spurned his party and the fundraising support it can provide.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, a former Democrat-turned Republican, began his campaign in April for the Republican nomination to seek Manchin’s seat.
Manchin, a popular former governor who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, has kept his seat in part by maintaining a reputation as a rare conservative Democrat in Washington.