Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking a trove of classified information to WikiLeaks in 2010, has filed for candidacy as a Democrat in the U.S. Senate race in Maryland.
Manning filed paperwork on Jan. 11 at 3:02 p.m. under the committee name, “Chelsea Manning for U.S. Senate,” according to the Federal Election Commission. She will face two-term incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin in the June 26 primary election.
A controversial figure who leaked classified information to WikiLeaks, Manning was arrested in 2010 on numerous counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917. She served seven years of a 35-year sentence in a military prison before being granted clemency by then-President Barack Obama as one of the final acts of his presidency before the end of his term in January 2017.
Before being released from prison, Manning received gender transition surgery. Previously, she was known as Bradley Edward Manning.
According to candidacy requirements established by the U.S. Constitution and the Maryland State Board of Elections, Manning is eligible to run for office.
"A candidate for public office must be a registered voter that satisfies the residency requirements for that office, and has to meet the Constitutional requirements for any federal office," said State Board of Elections Candidacy and Campaign Finance Director Jared DeMarinis. "In this case for U.S. Senate, a candidate must be a registered voter, 30 years old [or older], a citizen of the U.S. for nine years and an inhabitant of the state at the time of the election."
Comments from the Democratic Party have been sparse since the news of Manning's candidacy hit media outlets Saturday. Manning's candidacy was first reported by Conservative blog Red Maryland.
A spokesperson for Cardin offered the following statement when asked about Manning as a primary challenger:
“Senator Cardin is looking forward to a vigorous debate of the issues and a robust conversation with Maryland voters."
Maryland Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews did not respond to repeated requests for comment about Manning's run.
Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman Dave Kunes said he was unaware of Manning’s apparent entry into the race, but he wishes all candidates the best of luck.
Kunes said he is endorsing Cardin in a personal capacity in the 2018 election. He also noted that the Maryland Democratic Party does not involve itself or officially endorse candidates in primary elections.
Dr. Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland, said he doesn't think Maryland voters are ready to cast Cardin aside, but he doesn't think Cardin can afford to ignore Manning either.
"In the age of Trump, in the age of the so-called resistance to Trump-banning is likely to connect with the most activist progressive members of the Democratic Party base," Eberly said. "If Cardin chooses to ignore her, those voters may feel that Cardin is taking them for granted. Perhaps worse for Cardin is that fact that cable news and partisan websites won’t be able to resist covering the Manning run. So she’s likely to get coverage and exposure that most neophyte challengers would not.
"That being said, I don’t see Maryland as a good state in which to launch an unapologetically progressive challenger to a respected establishment Democrat. Maryland may be a Democratic state, but it’s not a particularly progressive state."
Neal Simon, a registered unaffiliated voter, who has launched an exploratory bid for the U.S. Senate said he believes Maryland voters want something different, but he’s not sure Manning would be their choice.
“I believe she was convicted as a felon for revealing state secrets, and I’m not sure voters will view that as an appropriate background to run for U.S. Senate,” Simon said. “I’ve been having dozens of conversations around the state. People are telling me that they want the country to come together and that they are tired of the partisanship. People want something other than party-line Republicans and party-line Democrats.”
Manning did not respond to comment requests made at her residence in North Bethesda, through her Facebook page or her Twitter account, but she has been active on social media.
On Jan. 14, she announced her campaign on Twitter with a one minute, 11 seconds video and a tweet - "yup, we're running for senate #wegotthis"
In the video, Manning said:
"We live in trying times. Times of fear, of suppression, of hate. We don't need more or better leaders. 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. We need to stop expecting that our systems will somehow fix themselves. We need to actually take the reins 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."