Joe Manchin was born and raised in Farmington, W.Va., and currently resides in Fairmont. His parents were business owners while one uncle, John, was among the 78 miners killed in the 1968 Farmington underground coal mine disaster. He followed another uncle, A. James Manchin, into politics.
Manchin attended West Virginia University on a football scholarship, but an injury ended his athletic ambitions. He earned a bachelor's degree in business and economics in 1970.
He operated a chain of family-owned retail stores and later had a stake in Enersystems, which has brokered coal and conducted other business involving natural resources. He handed off day-to-day operations of Enersystems to his son after he returned to politics with his 2000 election as West Virginia's secretary of state.
He was elected to the U.S. Senate in November 2010.
Manchin and his wife, Gayle, have three children.
Joe Manchin has continued to chart an independent course in the U.S. Senate after winning the 2010 special election triggered by the death of Robert C. Byrd.
Running for a full term in 2012, Manchin has clashed with President Barack Obama over federal finances, Afghanistan and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's handling of coal-related issues. Manchin has also criticized elements of 2010 health care reform law, though he has yet to support a complete repeal.
Manchin pledged during his 2010 campaign that he would not be a "rubber stamp" for Obama, who is very unpopular in West Virginia. Manchin also ran on his two-and-a-half terms as a popular governor at a time when the state's economy improved and weathered the recession. He defeated Republican John Raese, who previously ran without success for statewide office three times and is again Manchin's opponent in 2012.
Manchin is just the second sitting West Virginia governor to win a U.S. Senate race — the first is his senior colleague, Sen. Jay Rockefeller — and the first to do so mid-term.
After multiple terms in the state Legislature, Manchin first ran for governor in 1996 but fell in a bitter primary contest. He revived his political fortunes with his 2000 election as secretary of state. From that office, Manchin launched a 2004 bid for governor and won with more than 63 percent of the vote.
Manchin's victory came after he assembled a support base ranging from the state Chamber of Commerce to the AFL-CIO. During his first term, Manchin's agenda included privatizing the workers' compensation system, limiting lawsuits against insurance companies, improving public pension funding and gradually cutting taxes.
Such accomplishments and the wide-ranging coalition backing him helped Manchin cruise to re-election against a little-known opponent with nearly 70 percent of the vote.
Manchin's tenure as governor saw the state's emergency reserves grow, pension funding improve and unemployment drop. These improvements helped the state avoid tax hikes, program cuts, layoffs or other harsh measures during and following the recession.
But the state also endured several deadly coal mine disasters under Manchin's watch, including in 2006 at Sago and in 2010 at Upper Big Branch. The latter explosion killed 29 men in the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in four decades.
Manchin responded by pushing through legislation meant to aid rescue efforts and help miners survive blasts. He also became known as "comforter-in-chief" for his efforts to console the victims' families.
Just as he connected with the miners' families — he lost an uncle in the 1968 Farmington disaster — Manchin has proved highly effective at winning over small crowds and working a room.
"You have to get in with the people. That's how you can tell how things are," Manchin has said. "Politics is a contact sport in this state, and if you're not up for that you should get the hell out."
Committee Assignments: Energy and Natural Resources; Armed Services; Special Aging
American Conservative Union Rating: 15
Americans for Democratic Action Rating: 80
Joe Manchin is not up for re-election in 2014.
(Last updated by The Associated Press on June 9, 2014.)