On Thursday, Chelsea Manning filed a statement of candidacy declaring her intention to run for U.S. Senate in Maryland. Manning, a former U.S. Army soldier, became known nationwide after she was convicted of disclosing government secrets for leaking classified information to Wikileaks — and as she fought for her rights as a transgender individual while in prison. Manning's first Senate campaign video emphasizes her commitment to fighting for everyone's rights and to forging a new path for the United States.
Manning is running as a Democrat and will more than likely face Senator Ben Cardin in the primary race on June 26. Cardin has represented Maryland in the Senate since 2007. According to NBC News, Cardin is heavily favored to win in 2018, though he has not yet officially declared his intention to run for re-election. In addition to Manning, three other candidates have also filed to run in the Maryland Democratic primary.
Manning opened her campaign video by asserting that Americans are currently living in "trying times ... times of fear, of suppression ... of hate." As Manning spoke, video clips from the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and from various instances of police forcefully restraining protestors, played.
The video then transitioned to footage of Congress, with Manning emphasizing that she believes the U.S. "does not need more or better leaders." She stressed that she believes the country needs a different type of leadership, saying, "We need someone willing to fight, we need to stop asking them to give us our rights. They won't support us. They won't compromise."
In her ad, Manning also emphasized the importance of taking action to effect change, seemingly reflecting on why she chose to run for the Senate seat. As Manning put it:
We need to stop expecting that our systems will somehow fix themselves. We need to actually take the reigns of power from them. We need to challenge them at every level. We need to fix this. We don't need them anymore. We can do better. You're damn right we got this.
As the clip ended, the hashtag "#WeGotThis" flashed on the screen, along with "Chelsea Manning for U.S. Senate, 2018 Maryland Democratic Primary."
Manning was released from prison in May 2017, after serving seven years of her 35-year sentence. Her sentence was commuted by President Obama near the end of his second term in office, with the former president explaining that he felt justice had been served. "It has been my view that given she went to trial, that due process was carried out, that she took responsibility for her crime … and that she had served a significant amount of time,” Obama said to reporters at a press conference in January of last year.
Since her release, Manning has become highly involved in LGBTQ activism. She has engaged in speaking events at universities and marched in New York City's Pride Parade on the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)'s float. Moreover, both during and after her release from prison, Manning penned articles for The Guardian on transgender rights.
In Manning's first piece for The Guardian following her release, she discussed the importance of not compromising as a leader when it comes to standing up for people's rights — sentiments which are echoed in her current campaign for Senate. As Manning wrote:
... Do not start off with a compromise. They won’t meet you in the middle. Instead, what we need is an unapologetic progressive leader. We need someone who is unafraid to be criticized, since you will inevitably be criticized. We need someone willing to face all of the vitriol, hatred and dogged determination of those opposed to us. Our opponents will not support us nor will they stop thwarting the march toward a just system that gives people a fighting chance to live ... We need to actually take the reins of government and fix our institutions. We need to save lives by making change at every level.
Many Americans will likely be closely watching as Manning continues her campaign for U.S. Senate. If elected, Manning would be the first-ever openly transgender member of Congress.