Chelsea Manning files for US Senate bid in Maryland

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Chelsea Manning intends to run for the US Senate in Maryland, returning the transgender former soldier to the spotlight after her conviction for leaking classified documents and her early release from military prison.

Manning, 30, filed her statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday, listing an apartment in North Bethesda as her address.

She is running as a Democrat and will likely challenge two-term Senator Ben Cardin in the primary. The state’s senior senator is an overwhelming favourite to win.

Senator Ben Cardin (Susan Walsh/AP)
Senator Ben Cardin (Susan Walsh/AP)

Known as Bradley Manning at the time of her 2010 arrest, the former Army intelligence analyst was convicted of leaking more than 700,000 military and State Department documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, leading to her being hailed as a traitor as well as a courageous hero.

Ms Manning came out as transgender after being sentenced to 35 years in prison. President Barack Obama granted Manning clemency before leaving office last year.

Manning would not be the first transgender candidate to challenge a sitting member of Congress.

Kristin Beck, a retired Navy SEAL who is transgender, failed to unseat Steny Hoyer in Maryland’s Democratic Primary in 2016. Beck got 12% of the vote.

“It was too much for me to run for Congress,” Ms Beck said in a phone interview on Saturday. “I should have run for something lower. She might as well be running for president.”

Ms Beck said Ms Manning is pulling a “publicity stunt.”

“I totally, 100 percent disagree with everything she did,” Ms 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.”

Ms Manning was held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where she attempted suicide twice, according to her lawyers.

Mr Obama’s decision to commute Ms Manning’s sentence to about seven years drew strong criticism from members of Congress and others, with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan calling the move “just outrageous.”