Chelsea Manning, the transgender former Army private who was convicted of passing sensitive government documents to Wikileaks, has filed to run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland, according to federal election filings.
Manning, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, would be challenging Democrat Ben Cardin, who has served two terms in the Senate and is up for re-election in November. Cardin is Maryland’s senior senator and is considered an overwhelming favorite to win a third term.
Manning, 30, who is formerly known as Bradley Manning, was convicted in 2013 of the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Last year, then President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence to time served and she was released from a military prison in Kansas.
The news of Manning’s filing caught Maryland’s political class by surprise on Saturday afternoon.
Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has an extensive fundraising base within Maryland and is not considered particularly vulnerable to a challenge from within the state. However, an outside candidate with national name recognition, such as Manning, could tap a network of donors interested in elevating a progressive agenda.
Cardin’s spokeswoman did not return two messages seeking comment.
Manning moved to Maryland after her release and friends and family raised more than $175,000 to support her through an online campaign. Since then, she has written for The Guardian and Medium on issues of transparency, free speech and civil liberties, according to her web site.
Manning’s statement of candidacy was filed with the Federal Elections Commission on Thursday. She is running as a Democrat and refers to Maryland as her “home state” on her web site.
Manning’s first column for The Guardian said Obama’s election in 2008 was a political awakening for her. Manning wrote Obama left behind “hints of a progressive legacy,” but very few permanent accomplisments.
“This vulnerable legacy should remind us that what we really need is a strong and unapologetic progressive to lead us,” Manning wrote. “What we need as well is a relentless grassroots movement to hold that leadership accountable.”
Manning enlisted in the military in 2007 and was deployed to Iraq two years later as an intelligence analyst, according to her web site.
In 2010, Manning was arrested after she provided a trove of nearly 75,000 documents to Wikileaks that included documents about the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, State Department cables, and information about prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.
Three years later, Manning was convicted of multiple counts, including violating the Espionage Act, and received a lengthy sentence. While serving time at Ft. Leavenworth, Manning made the transition from male to female.
Manning’s high-profile case has been politically divisive. She has been lauded as a hero by some, but also decried as a traitor by many, including President Trump.