Former U.S. Army intelligence analyst, Wikileaks whistleblower, and trans activist Chelsea Manning has filed documents to run for a Senate seat in Maryland currently held by incumbent Democrat Ben Cardin, the Washington Post reported.
Manning did not return requests for comment from the Post or CNN, though she filed the documents on January 11th with the Federal Election Commission. Manning’s race against Cardin, a senior senator who has held his seat since 2007, serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, and reportedly has nearly $2 million cash on hand for his campaign—in a state with massive economic ties to the military and defense industries, no less—could be fairly called a long shot. In lieu of further comment, it’s unclear what her campaign will look like or how she plans on tackling Cardin.
But Manning has also become a prominent transparency and civil liberties activist after her release from prison, where she spent seven years including grueling stretches in solitary confinement for leaking nearly 750,000 government documents to Wikileaks. If she bests Cardin in the Democratic primary, there hasn’t been a Republican senator from Maryland since 1987.
In an interview with Nightline, Manning described her decision to leak the documents, some of which exposed abuses by U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“We were getting all this information from all these different sources, and it’s just death, destruction, mayhem,” Manning said. “... We’re filtering it all through facts, statistics, reports, dates, times, locations, and eventually, you just stop. I stopped seeing just statistics and information, and I started seeing people.”
Defense Department investigators later admitted the leaked information posed only a low to moderate security risk, and then-President Barack Obama eventually commuted her sentence early last year. There is nothing that bars Manning from running for the Senate, and she claims to have regained the right to vote in Maryland as of last year.
Manning’s FEC filings show she plans to run as a Democrat, though it would appear she’s flanking the party to the left. In January 2017, she warned that despite Obama’s “faith in our system and his positive track record on many issues over the last eight years,” his record was undermined by habitual attempts to “comprise with opponents who were uninterested and unwilling to meet him halfway.”
In response, Trump tweeted that she was an “ungrateful TRAITOR”—something that would probably work in her favor on the campaign trail, to be honest. Manning’s Twitter presence—including calls to disarm police forces—has also repeatedly drawn the wailing of distressed Fox News staff.
Harvard’s Kennedy School offered a visiting fellowship to Manning in 2017, though the college wimped out and rescinded the offer under pressure from senior intelligence officials.
“Chelsea Manning has fought for freedom and sacrificed for it in ways that few others have,” Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer told the Post. “The world is a better place with her as a free woman, and this latest news makes it clear she is only beginning to make her mark on it.”