Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia resigned Friday from his leadership position at the nonprofit political group No Labels, according to the senator’s office.
Manchin, who co-chaired No Labels along with Republican former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, since late October had been under pressure from Senate Democratic leaders to step away from the group, which pledged resources in support of Republican Cory Gardner’s U.S. Senate bid in Colorado in the weeks before the midterm elections.
Gardner won on Tuesday, defeating incumbent Democrat Mark Udall.
"Given my position as a sitting United States Senator, who cannot be involved in the day-to-day decision making of the organization, I believe it is appropriate for me at this time to step down as honorary Co-Chair," Manchin said, in the statement. "I still support the original goals of No Labels and will continue to work with them to foster bipartisan communication and bring some common sense back to Washington.”
No Labels had earlier opened a rift with Democratic leaders, including Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, after it endorsed Gardner in the spring. The group later clarified its endorsement by saying Udall could also win one if he merely pledged to join No Labels, but not before Democrats had begun confronting Manchin about the group's actions.
In July, Yahoo News reported on internal documents that revealed No Labels believed it would find “opportunity” in a Republican takeover of the Senate because it would create more gridlock, therefore giving the group more to fight.
Senate Democrats had planned to escalate their challenge of Manchin’s involvement with the group when lawmakers returned to Washington later this month and face-to-face meetings again became possible.
Now that Udall’s loss is official, Manchin’s decision to step down will likely save him those sorts of uncomfortable meetings. No Labels played no significant role in deciding the outcome of the Colorado race, according to sources close to both the Udall and Gardner campaigns.
Update, Nov. 7 11:45 a.m.: No Labels released a statement on Manchin's departure Friday:
"We were proud to support Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner who has been a leader at No Labels working with colleagues across the aisle. We repeatedly invited his opponent in the Colorado Senate race — incumbent Senator Mark Udall — to join the group, to attend meetings, and offered him the Problem Solver Seal if he would agree to some simple bipartisan goals. Senator Udall chose not to participate in any way on any level. And this situation put Senator Manchin, as an incumbent Democratic senator, in a politically awkward position with the Senate leadership.
"In order to eliminate this sort of conflict in the future, we expect any future honorary co-chairs (like Governor Jon Huntsman) will be former rather than sitting elected officials who are independent of leadership decisions and politics."