Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat, won't run for governor again next year, he announced Tuesday.
"Our state is blessed with the resources and people to accomplish anything, and I am going to use every day I have left in the Senate to make sure West Virginians have that chance," Manchin said in a statement. "I am grateful to be a public servant from West Virginia, and I can’t wait to continue fighting to make a difference as their United States Senator."
Manchin, who served as governor of West Virginia from 2005 to 2010, won re-election to the Senate last fall by more than 3 percentage points over state Attorney General Patrick Morrissey. Manchin was considering a challenge to Gov. Jim Justice, a first-term Republican closely aligned with President Donald Trump.
Although West Virginia has a history of electing Democrats, Manchin has been an outlier recently in a state that Trump won in 2016 by more than 40 points over Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. If Manchin ran for governor and won, he would have been able to appoint a temporary successor who could remain in the Senate until a special election in 2022. But that election would have fallen two years short of Manchin's current six-year term, offering Republicans an early opportunity to try to flip the seat.
"I’ve had a lot of inquiries they want me to come back home," Manchin told CBS’s "Face the Nation" in an interview last month. "I have people think that maybe I should stay."
A moderate who has sought to work with the president at times, Manchin often complains of the lack of progress in Congress and speaks fondly of his time as governor.
"I have always said that 'public service is not self-service,'" Manchin said in his Tuesday statement. "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."
"Ultimately, I believe my role as U.S. Senator allows me to position our state for success for the rest of this century," he continued.
Justice, a billionaire businessman who ran for office as a Democrat before switching parties, has been a source of controversy during his term in office. His administration was served with a federal subpoena and Republican-controlled state committees approved "no confidence" resolutions against him.
An August MetroNews Dominion Post West Virginia Poll showed that Manchin would defeat Justice in a hypothetical race. The poll showed Manchin winning 49 percent of respondents while Justice carried 39 percent. Another 12 percent said they were not sure who they would vote for.