Chelsea Manning, the transgender Maryland woman convicted of sharing thousands of military documents with Wikileaks, has filed her candidacy to challenge Sen. Ben Cardin in this year’s election.
Manning declared her intentions Jan. 5 with the Federal Election Commission, which posted the document on its website Thursday. She is running as a Democrat.
Manning on Sunday took to Twitter to confirm her candidacy, tweeting, “yup, we're running for senate” with an attached campaign video. She sent a subsequent tweet seeking donations to her campaign.
Manning, a 30-year-old Oklahoma native, had previously lived in Montgomery County before enlisting in the Army and eventually facing a court-martial for leaking classified and sensitive information. She moved back to Maryland last year after President Barack Obama commuted her 35-year sentence in the final days of his administration.
She is at least the fourth candidate lined up to unseat Cardin, according to state election records, but by far the most well known. Previously known as Bradley Manning, she has been held up as a heroic whistle-blower by some and maligned as a traitor by others for revealing information about military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and about detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Cardin, who served 20-year tenures in the Maryland House of Delegates and the U.S. House of Representatives before succeeding retiring U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes in 2007, is not considered particularly vulnerable to challenge.
He had an approval rating of 50 percent as recently as October, according to Morning Consult. That was around the middle of the pack for all senators and 2 percentage points higher than Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat who won the race to replace former Sen. Barbara Mikulski in 2016.
Cardin’s campaign had about $2 million on hand as of Sept. 30, according to federal campaign finance records.
A spokesperson for Cardin said he “is looking forward to a vigorous debate of the issues and a robust conversation with Maryland voters.”
Conservative news outlet Red Maryland first reported Manning’s candidacy.
Federal election documents list Manning’s campaign committee address as an apartment tower in North Bethesda. They do not show any campaign finance reports for Manning’s campaign.
Manning could not immediately be reached for comment.
The day after Manning filed her candidacy, the television network Showtime announced that later this year it would air a documentary called “XY Chelsea” that follows her release from prison. Among the documentary’s executive producers is Laura Poitras, who produced “Citizenfour,” a documentary about another famous leaker, Edward Snowden.
Manning has not discussed her Senate campaign on her Twitter page, but has recently weighed in on political issues there. On Tuesday, which was National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, she stirred controversy when she tweeted “f--- the police,” and then, “police kill hundreds of people every year with absolute impunity.”
When U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided 7-Eleven stores around the country on Wednesday, she tweeted, “so @icegov is literally the new gestapo.”
She has written about transgender rights and bullying in columns published on the website Medium. Last year, she wrote a column for The Guardian opposing compromise in politics.
“We need to stop asking them to give us our rights,” she wrote. “We need to actually take the reins of government and fix our institutions.”
When another Twitter user criticized Manning’s diatribe on police last week and said “have fun never voting again,” she responded that she was registered to vote despite her criminal record: “state of maryland doesnt disenfranchise.”
In 2016, Maryland lawmakers overrode a veto by Gov. Larry Hogan to extend the right to vote to felons who had completed their prison sentences.
Kristin Beck, a retired Navy SEAL who is transgender, failed to unseat Rep. Steny Hoyer in Maryland's Democratic primary in 2016. Beck got 12 percent of the vote.
“It was too much for me to run for Congress,” Beck said in a phone interview Saturday. “I should have run for something lower [state or local office]. She might as well be running for president.”
Beck said Manning is pulling a “publicity stunt.”
“I totally, 100 percent disagree with everything she did,” Beck said. “She's just grabbing headlines. I know what that feels like. I've been in the headlines. You get a sense that you're worthy and doing something that counts. And when you lose that, you try to do something to grab a headline.”
Maryland’s primary election will be held June 26. The general election is Nov. 6.