Senator Joe Manchin

Senator Joe Manchin speaks to a crowd at the recent opening of the Princeton VA Clinic. 

PRINCETON — Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has still not decided if he will run for Governor next year.

At the grand opening ceremony of the new Princeton VA (Veterans Administration) Clinic on Friday, Manchin said he has not made up mind and is in no hurry to decide.

“I want to do what is best for West Virginia,” he said, adding that he just finished one election and didn’t know if is ready to go through another one.

Manchin was referring to his 2018 reelection victory over state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Speculation has been building that Manchin may consider a run against the presumptive Republican nominee, Gov. Jim Justice.

In a recent interview with Politico Manchin said he is “thinking about” running for the governor of West Virginia.

“I think about it every minute of every day. Now, thinking about it and doing it are two different things,” he said. “I’ll make a decision this fall sometime. I don’t think there’s any hurry at all.”

In an interview with the Bluefield Daily Telegraph last fall, Manchin, who is a former governor of the state, emphasized how much he enjoyed being governor.

“The governor was the best job I ever had in my life,” he said. “I was in a position to do things. I could get things done. We helped a lot of people.”

Manchin has also recently been more critical of some of the actions of Justice as well as Morrisey.

Last week, he called a $37 million settlement made by Justice and Morrisey with McKesson Corporation for flooding the state with opioids for years “horrific and inadequate.”

“It’s no surprise to me that Patrick Morrisey and Jim Justice have allowed this type of thievery and have cut a sweetheart deal with McKesson that sells out West Virginia out of the billions of dollars in damages that our state and our people have endured,” he said, also saying that McKesson made $208.4 billion in 2018 and “… The Governor and Attorney General either don’t know how to negotiate, don’t understand the scope of this problem or don’t care about the impact this epidemic has had on the state of West Virginia. Either way, they have failed our state.”

Manchin was elected Governor in 2004, reelected in 2008 and left the position after winning his Senate seat in 2010 following the death of Sen. Robert Byrd.

In a recent stop in Princeton, Justice said he intends to run for reelection next year and it would not surprise him if Manchin runs against him.

“The reality is, look at the numbers,” he said. “When I walked in here, they (previous administrations) had put the state in a mess … they put us dead last … Whatever Joe wants to do, he will do. I am surely up for the challenge.”

Manchin also addressed other issues during the Princeton ceremony, including his vision for a hydroelectric dam in Southern West Virginia.

“That’s my number one project,” he said. “It gives us recreation, more value of the land and it also gives us revenue.”

Manchin, who said he will use his clout as the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for the project, pointed out what Smith Mountain Lake has done for an area south and east or Roanoke.

“We can do it right here,” he said of the lake’s economic impact on local economies.

Another priority is infrastructure.

The “Appalachian corridor” of highways like the King Coal Highway and Coalfields Expressways in Southern West Virginia need to be finished and represent a “major commitment,” he said.

Infrastructure also includes high-speed broadband, water, sewer and bridges, all necessary for the state. “This has to be done.”

“I am supporting infrastructure,” he said in response to whether he is behind President Donald Trump’s $2 trillion plan that Democrats are also supporting. “It’s something we should have done 10 years ago. Every president should have had a plan.”

But Manchin is waiting for all the details.

“The President will lay out a plan and how he’s going to pay for it,” he said. “I want to see that too.”

On a broader topic related to that, Manchin said he is concerned that the United States is losing its status as a “superpower of the world,” and one of the reasons is a deteriorating infrastructure.

“Our ports, rails, airports” must be kept up to standards, he said. “We have to have that to be a leader.”

Leadership is especially crucial now with the growing instability in this country and around the world, he added.

“We live in a divided country and a troubled world,” he said. “When you look around at what’s going on in the world right now, it’s extremely unstable.”

Manchin referred to the crisis in Venezuela, cyber attacks by Russia and the human suffering around the world. among other problems.

“There is not other country willing to stand up and take the place of the USA,” he said. “Some want to replace us with military might but there’s not anyone willing to take our place in human rights, standing up and helping people who are basically oppressed, people who basically have no freedom, people who face pandemics and epidemics. There’s no one standing up to help them.”

Manchin said those people look to this country. “Everybody is looking for America’s help. They look to us for leadership. We’ve got to be strong.”

He also made the point that without the sacrifice of veterans, America would not be in a position to help anyone.

“We are going to continue to work, but we should never forget about the people who gave us the opportunity to do that,” he said. “We could not be the country we are if they (veterans) had not fought. Think of all those who haven’t returned, think of the Gold Star families.”

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com