West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin defected from the Democratic Party and registered as an independent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin He announced his registration as an independent in West Virginia on Friday, raising questions about his future political plans.

Manchin is often at odds with Democrats An obstacle to many of President Joe Biden’s legislative priorities.

He announced in November that he would not seek re-election to the Senate in the heavily GOP state, making Republicans more likely to pick up a seat in an attempt to regain the majority next year.

Manchin has served in the Senate since 2010. He serves as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He said in a statement that over the past 15 years, he had seen both major political parties abandon their constituencies “for partisan extremism, endangering our democracy.”

“Today, our national politics is fractured, and neither party is willing to compromise to find common ground,” Manchin said. “To be true to myself and committed to putting country before party, I have decided to register as an independent with no party affiliation and continue to fight for a sane majority in America.”

But his announcement left many questions unanswered. Manchin did not say whether he would continue to talk to Democrats in the Senate, where they hold a slim majority. He also did not indicate whether he would run for political office in the future.

A request for further comment from his office was not immediately returned.

Manchin announced in February Can’t contest the presidential electionHe said he didn’t want to be a “spoiler”.

“I will not seek a third-party run,” he said in a speech at West Virginia University. “I will not participate in the presidential election. I will be committed to ensuring that we secure a president with the knowledge, passion, and ability to unite this country.

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The speech was scheduled as part of a national listening tour announced by Manchin when he decided not to seek another Senate term. He told the Morgantown audience that he was not interested in being “a deal breaker, if you will, a spoiler, whatever you want to call it.”

“I don’t think it’s the right time,” he said.

Facing potential retirement, Manchin appears to be keeping all options open for another Senate race or a possible run for governor.

Manchin has long wanted to change his party affiliation to independent, according to a person familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss it. But a looming deadline in West Virginia forced the issue.

To run in this year’s election, candidates must file their affiliation no later than 60 days before the Aug. 1 deadline in West Virginia. If Senate candidates falter, Manchin could try to keep his seat. Or he could run for governor.

Manchin has not said whether he will caucus with Democrats, but he could lose his chairmanship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee if he does not align with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Arizona Sen. Kirsten Cinematography has not joined Senate Democrats, but she is still considered part of the majority party because she takes over her committee assignments from Schumer.

Robert C. He won a special election following Byrd’s death and entered the Senate. He won re-election in both 2012 and 2018, the latter his toughest campaign in his three-plus decades in West Virginia politics. He defeated Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey by just over 3 percentage points.

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Registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans during Manchin’s first two Senate campaigns, but things have changed since then. Right now, about 40% of registered voters are Republicans, 31% are Democrats and 24% are independent.

Both houses of the legislature have Republican majorities, and Donald Trump won the state in landslides in 2016 and 2020.

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Staff writer Mary Claire Jalonik contributed to this report.

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