(CHARLESTON, W.Va.) — Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced Thursday that he won’t seek reelection in 2024, giving Republicans a prime opportunity to pick up a seat in the heavily GOP state.
Manchin, 76, said in a statement that he had made the decision “after months of deliberation and long conversations” with his family.
“I believe in my heart of hearts that I have accomplished what I set out to do for West Virginia,” he said. “I have made one of the toughest decisions of my life and decided that I will not be running for re-election to the United States Senate, but what I will be doing is traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.”
His decision to retire severely hampers Democratic hopes of holding on to the coal-country seat. For the last few years, Manchin has been the only Democrat elected to statewide office in West Virginia, a longtime politician who has served as governor, secretary of state and state legislator.
Republican challengers began clamoring for the Senate seat even before Manchin’s announcement, with GOP Rep. Alex Mooney jumping in the race less than two weeks after winning his fifth term in the House in November.
Already, 2024 was shaping up to be a tough election cycle for Senate Democrats. The party will be forced to defend 23 seats, including three held by independents, compared to just 10 seats for Republicans. Manchin is one of just three Democratic senators up for reelection in 2024 who represent a state won by President Donald Trump, a Republican, in the 2020 election.
Manchin, a conservative Democrat, was both a critical vote and a constant headache for his party in the first two years of President Joe Biden’s term. In a 50-50 chamber that Democrats controlled by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote, Manchin leveraged his political power to shape legislation to his liking.
Along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, a Democrat who switched to an independent after last year’s midterms, he helped water down much of Biden’s social spending agenda. He has frequently clashed with members of his own party over his strong support for coal and other fossil fuels.
Days before last year’s midterms, he blasted Biden for being “cavalier” and “divorced from reality” after vowing to shutter coal-fired power plants and rely more heavily on wind and solar energy in the future. He demanded a public apology from Biden, and the White House acquiesced by issuing a statement saying the president “regrets it if anyone hearing these remarks took offense.”
This story has been corrected to show Manchin is 76, not 75.