WASHINGTON — Senator Joe Manchin III announced Tuesday that he will not run for governor in his home state of West Virginia, ending speculation about the future of one of the Senate’s few moderate Democrats.
“Those who know me know how much I loved being the governor of West Virginia,” Mr. Manchin said in a statement. “I worked the daylights out of that job. I couldn’t wait to wake up in the Governor’s Mansion in the morning, and I didn’t want to go to bed at night, because there was always more that I could do for our state.”
But he said he could not make a decision based on what job he liked most, but rather on where he could be most useful. “Ultimately, I believe my role as U.S. senator allows me to position our state for success for the rest of this century,” he said, by working on issues like jobs, energy and the environment.
Mr. Manchin, who served as governor from 2001 to 2005, has made no secret of his dislike for the Senate. At the outset of 2018, he was flirting with retirement, and had repeatedly expressed his frustration to Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, telling him at one point, “this place sucks.” He has long said he preferred being governor.
Mr. Manchin has also been extremely critical of Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia, a Trump-like Republican who ran as a Democrat but later switched parties at Mr. Trump’s urging. Last year, Mr. Justice fired Mr. Manchin’s wife, Gayle, from her position as West Virginia Secretary for Education and the Arts.
The decision announced Tuesday was so last minute that Mr. Manchin’s communications director, Jonathan Kott, said he wrote up two statements — and so secretive that Mr. Kott did not know before the announcement which one Mr. Manchin would use.
Mr. Manchin is a rare breed in the Senate: a moderate Democrat, the only one outside of Senator Doug Jones of Alabama. When he won re-election in 2018, he was the sole survivor of a trio of incumbent moderates who were running that year. Two others — Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — lost their races.