NORTH BETHESDA, Md. (AP) – Chelsea Manning is no longer living as a transgender woman in a male military prison, serving the lengthiest sentence ever for revealing U.S. government secrets. She’s free to grow out her hair, travel the world, and spend time with whomever she likes.
But a year since former President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s 35-year sentence, America’s most famous convicted leaker isn’t taking an extended vacation. Far from it: The Oklahoma native has decided to make an unlikely bid for the U.S. Senate in her adopted state of Maryland.
Manning, 30, filed to run in January and has been registered to vote in Maryland since August. She lives in North Bethesda, not far from where she stayed with an aunt while awaiting trial. Her aim is to unseat Sen. Ben Cardin, a 74-year-old Maryland Democrat who is seeking his third Senate term and previously served 10 terms in the U.S. House.
Manning, who also has become an internationally recognized transgender activist, said she’s motivated by a desire to fight what she sees as a shadowy surveillance state and a rising tide of nightmarish repression.
“The rise of authoritarianism is encroaching in every aspect of life, whether it’s government or corporate or technological,” Manning told The Associated Press during an interview at her home in an upscale apartment tower. On the walls of her barely furnished living room hang Obama’s commutation order, and photos of U.S. anarchist Emma Goldman and British playwright Oscar Wilde.
Manning’s longshot campaign for the June 26 primary would appear to be one of the more unorthodox U.S. Senate bids in recent memory, and the candidate is operating well outside the party’s playbook. She says she doesn’t, in fact, even consider herself a Democrat, but is motivated by a desire to shake up establishment Democrats who are “caving in” to President Donald Trump’s administration. She vows she won’t run as an independent if her primary bid fails.
She’s certainly got an eye-catching platform: Close prisons and free inmates; eliminate national borders; restructure the criminal justice system; provide universal health care and basic income. The top of her agenda? Abolish the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal agency created in 2003 that Manning asserts is preparing for an “ethnic cleansing.”
Manning ticks off life experiences she believes would make her an effective senator: a stint being homeless in Chicago, her wartime experiences as a U.S. Army intelligence analyst in Iraq — even her seven years in prison. She asserts she’s got a “bigger vision” than establishment politicians.
But political analysts…