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Who Is U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin?

Senator Joe Manchin WV
Images: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for JDRF

Manchin has been one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, with a mixed record on LGBTQ+ issues.


U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a potential third-party presidential candidate, has a history as one of the most conservative Democrats in the body.

Manchin announced Thursday that he won’t seek reelection to the Senate in 2024.

What's Manchin's History?

Manchin joined the U.S. Senate in 2010, when he won a special election to fill the remainder of Robert Byrd’s term after Byrd’s death. He was reelected in 2012 and 2018. He was governor of West Virginia from 2004 to 2010, West Virginia secretary of state from 2000 to 2004, a state senator from 1986 to 1996, and a member of the state’s House of Delegates from 1982 to 1986. He has worked in several family businesses.

Manchin Isn't Much of an LGBTQ+ Ally and Was Against Marriage Equality

The West Virginian senator has a mixed record on LGBTQ+ issues. In his time in the Senate, from 2010 to now, he has never received a perfect 100 score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard, which differentiates him from most Democrats. He has scored as high as 85 and as low as 30.

He has failed to sign on as a cosponsor of the Equality Act, which would ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination nationwide in employment, housing, public accommodations, and numerous other aspects of life. In 2019, he issued a statement saying that while he opposes discrimination, “I am not convinced that the Equality Act as written provides sufficient guidance to the local officials who will be responsible for implementing it, particularly with respect to students transitioning between genders in public schools.”

He was a longtime opponent of marriage equality, but in 2015 he said he would respect the U.S. Supreme Court’s favorable ruling on the matter as the law of the land. Last year, he voted for the Respect for Marriage Act, which writes marriage equality into federal law and protects it in case the high court reverses itself.

He was the only Democratic senator who voted for an anti-transgender amendment in a COVID-19 relief bill in 2021. The amendment, which ultimately did not pass, would have denied federal funding under Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to states, school districts, colleges, and universities that allow transgender girls and women to compete on female teams.

He's Friends with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema

Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who recently switched her registration from Democratic to independent, have resisted lifting the filibuster, a procedural rule that means 60 senators have to vote to end debate on a bill before there can be a vote on the bill itself. This has blocked much progressive legislation. Sinema, the first out bisexual in the Senate, ran as a progressive but has not always acted like one.

Manchin has received some praise for working with Republicans to get legislation passed during Joe Biden’s presidency, including gun control and infrastructure bills. He negotiated to soften a bill addressing climate change but then helped assure its passage. Such softening efforts haven’t won him any fans on the left, however.

“Joe Manchin watered down the Democratic economic agenda, made the cost of raising children higher and billionaire taxes lower, and now doesn’t even run for reelection,” Adam Green, a founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, told The New York Times. "History, and West Virginians who are struggling, will not judge Joe Manchin well.”

Will Manchen Run for President?

His decision not to seek reelection threatens the Democrats’ narrow majority in the Senate, as West Virginia is a conservative state and likely to elect a Republican next year. The state’s current governor, Republican Jim Justice, is considered the front-runner in the Senate race.

Manchin is rumored to be contemplating a third-party presidential run in connection with a group called No Labels. In the video announcing he wouldn’t run for Senate again, he said he planned to travel around the U.S. to see “if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.”

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring, The Advocate's copy chief, has spent much of her journalistic career covering the LGBT movement. When she's not fielding questions about grammar, spelling, and LGBT history, she's sharing movie trivia or classic rock lyrics.
Trudy Ring, The Advocate's copy chief, has spent much of her journalistic career covering the LGBT movement. When she's not fielding questions about grammar, spelling, and LGBT history, she's sharing movie trivia or classic rock lyrics.