People have been speculating for months that Manchin, who was the state’s governor from 2005 to 2010, would join the race for the state’s highest office. Manchin, who won the U.S. Senate seat in a special election following the death of Democrat Sen. Robert Byrd in 2010, was reelected to a six-year term in 2018.
Manchin said in a statement on Sept. 3 that he’s officially staying in the seat.
“I have always said that ‘public service is not self-service.’ So, when considering whether to run for governor, I couldn’t focus just on which job I enjoyed the most, but on where I could be the most effective for the Mountain State,” Manchin said. “Ultimately, I believe my role as U.S. senator allows me to position our state for success for the rest of this century.”
Manchin is a centrist Democrat who has shown support for pro-life positions and voted against his party around one-third of the time amid an increasingly partisan Senate.
Manchin was seen standing and applauding President Donald Trump during his State of the Union address when the president condemned Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s call to allow infanticide.
“Late-term abortions are just horrific … totally just wrong,” Manchin said later.
He was the lone Democrat to vote for Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, and has regularly voted for other Trump judicial nominees.
Manchin said earlier this year he was considering a run for governor.
“I think about it every minute of every day. Now, thinking about it and doing it are two different things,” Manchin told Politico in April. “I’ll make a decision this fall sometime. I don’t think there’s any hurry at all.”
He took aim at sitting Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, saying it’s “going to be very difficult for [Justice] no matter who runs against him.”
He said over the summer that supporters in his state wanted him to run against Justice.
“I have people back home that want me to come back and run for governor. We’re looking at all the different plays. I want to make sure whatever time I have left in public service is productive,” he told The Hill in June.
Responding to a question about how productive he feels in the Senate, Manchin said, “Not at all.”
“I haven’t been happy since I’ve been here. I’ve always thought there was more we can do. It’s the greatest body in the world, so much good could be done,” he said.
Justice was elected as a Democrat but switched to the Republican Party during a Trump rally in 2017.
A poll released on Aug. 30 showed that Manchin would beat the incumbent if he entered the race.
In the theoretical head-to-head matchup, 49 percent of respondents said they’d vote for Manchin, versus 39 percent who said they would vote for Justice. The remaining were unsure.
“If Senator Manchin were to enter the governor’s race and be the Democratic nominee, there’s no question he has historically strong support in the state. And generally, his positions on issues resonate with West Virginia voters,” Rex Repass, president of Research America Inc., which conducted the poll for the MetroNews Dominion Post, told the Post.
“However, if he were to decide to run for governor in 2020, he does have some headwinds to overcome.”
Before Justice was elected and switched parties, Manchin had endorsed him. In recent months, the pair have traded shots.
The primary election in the state is slated for May 12, 2020, ahead of the November general election.
Stephen Smith, who was executive director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, is the current Democratic challenger. Woody Thrasher, former state commerce secretary and who also switched to Republican from Democrat, is running against Justice in the Republican primary.