Chelsea Manning Will Run For U.S. Senate In Maryland

by Clarissa-Jan Lim
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that Chelsea Manning has filed to run for Senate. She will run in Maryland as a Democrat against Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, according to federal election filings that Post reporter Justin Jouvenal looked at.

Manning, a transgender former U.S. soldier who was released from prison after serving four years for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, is 30 years old — the minimum age required to be a U.S. senator. Manning was born in Oklahoma City but moved to Maryland after her release from prison.

Cardin, Manning's opponent, is a senior senator in the state. He has served two terms as Maryland senator, and according to the Post, is an "overwhelming favorite" to win a third. He currently sits on various congressional committees, including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Democrats in that committee, led by Cardin, are currently conducting an independent investigation into what they call "Russia’s malign influence around the world.")

In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison on charges of espionage and theft, among others, for the largest leaking of classified documents in U.S. history. She was previously known as Bradley Manning, and in a statement the day after her sentencing, said she identified as female since childhood and that she now goes by Chelsea Manning. She transitioned while in an all-male prison and made two reported suicide attempts.

During the last few days of his presidency in January 2017, President Obama commuted Manning's sentence. Officials said that he believed serving seven years for her actions was punishment enough and that her sentence was excessive, the Post reported. She was released from prison a few months later.

Since her release, Manning has been prominent voice on social media. She has criticized excessive police force and the criminal justice system, as well as advocated for LBGTQ rights and government transparency. She has also made several high-profile public appearances, and even in posed for a feature spread in Vogue.

Manning's struggle to obtain gender reassignment surgery while in prison also made her the inadvertent face of the military's transgender troops. She went on a hunger strike to protest the military's refusal to provide her the surgery, and officials later gave in to her request. Prior to that, the military also provided her access to hormone therapy after she sued.

But Manning remains a highly divisive figure in the U.S. Some see her as a heroic whistleblower; others, including President Trump, deem her a traitor. Days after his predecessor commuted Manning's sentence, Trump called her an "Ungrateful TRAITOR" in a tweet that appeared to respond to her Guardian column criticizing Obama for not being progressive enough.

The responses to news of her filing to run for U.S. Senate have been equally mixed. Some have roundly criticized Manning, whom they call a convicted criminal, though others have already expressed support for her campaign. It's unclear what her campaign platform will look like, but given her calls for a more progressive agenda and the issues she's been vocal about, she could be to the left of Cardin, who is already considered among the more liberal Democrats in Congress.

At the time of writing, Manning had not responded to reports of her Senate run. She will face Cardin in the primary on June 26. Maryland's U.S. Senate election will take place on Nov. 6.