Chelsea Elizabeth Manning, resident of a luxury apartment in Bethesda, Maryland, announced her candidacy for US senate as a Democrat in a January 11 campaign filing.
The primary will be held on June 26, 2018, ahead of the Nov. 6 general election that Democrats are eying as a chance to retake Congress and restrain president Donald Trump.
Though she has yet to comment on the filing, the Washington Post reports that the candidate is the same Manning who, while working as an intelligence analyst in the US army, leaked a trove of classified documents to WikiLeaks, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for doing so, and had her sentence commuted by president Barack Obama after serving seven years. Manning is also a transgender woman who won an audience among progressives for her writing on transgender rights and government transparency.
Now, she is throwing her hat in the ring against a member of the Democratic establishment, Senator Ben Cardin, who also hasn’t commented on the putative challenge. Cardin, a senator for the last decade who spent twenty years in the House of Representatives before that, is considered a fairly liberal Democrat, but a race against Manning would highlight the stylistic differences between a youthful progressive movement and the aging generation of party leaders.
Many Democratic political operatives will be frustrated to see attention focused on an intra-party skirmish over a fairly safe blue seat, rather than on a cohesive anti-Trump message. At the same time, the national victory they desire will require turning out progressives inspired by Manning who may not often vote during mid-term general elections.
Cardin has yet to lose a political race, and is well-funded and connected in his home state. Manning could capitalize on her national profile to raise money and build support among the left-wing voters in the primary, but she is untested as a candidate and would no doubt face a hard slog. Her candidacy would undoubtedly bring attention, both in Maryland and around the nation, to transgender rights and the rise of the security state.
In many states, Manning would be unable to vote after being convicted of a felony, but Maryland passed a law last year that allows felons to participate in elections. During his career in the senate, Cardin has frequently advocated restoring voting rights to felons.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that felons could not run for federal office in Maryland; in fact, there is no prohibition on felons running for federal office in the US.