Dimitri Shein, Democratic candidate, is running for Alaska’s seat this year in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I feel like our country is kind of in a low point right now in terms of our democracy, in terms of being able to hear the truth,” Shein said. “If you’re ever going to participate in your democracy and political process, this is a good time because it’s at the very lowest. So, if you’re able to make things better, you should step forward and run.”
Shein immigrated from Vladivostok, Russia to Alaska in 1993 with his mother when he was 12 years old. He went to Central Middle School while they were living at the Abused Women’s Aid In Crisis shelter, then went to West High School where he met his wife, Melissa. They now have six children, four of whom were adopted in 2016.
At UAA, Shein majored in accounting and graduated in 2003, then opened up an accounting firm. This allowed him to travel to rural Alaska to work with tribal councils and village corporations, helping with funds for their projects.
He’s also been able to travel to places such as China for his e-commerce company called Nice Planter. The company manufactures planters using metals ranging from stainless steel to powder-coated aluminum.
With this background in trade and business, Shein hopes to help Alaskans that want to focus on being involved in the economy.
“We’re talking about issues that are important for Alaskans and the issues that I feel are important, not only now but also for next generation of Alaskans and that affect our economy now going forward,” Shein said.
Another one of Shein’s primary interests is pushing for universal access to healthcare. He said that the healthcare system is outdated.
“I remember when I was going to UAA, my coverage was spotty so I could’ve gotten hurt and not had access to healthcare,” Shein said. “Medicare for all, when passed, will be a major benefit for younger people who want to start their own businesses and who want to go to school.”
People shouldn’t have to choose between healthcare and education, he said.
Melissa Shein, a family physician at the Southcentral Foundation, wants to see long-term solutions to issues that she sees, like poverty, substance abuse and unemployment.
“I would like to see more leaders who operate from a standpoint that allows all people in our state and country to have opportunities to receive a great education, health care, and job opportunities,” she added. “I believe Dimitri is this type of person, and I hope he can not only be a part of creating a bright future for Alaskans, but inspire more young people with new energy and ideas like him to do the same.”
Arianna Cocallas, staffer for Shein’s campaign, said that progressive messages can be drowned out in Alaska.
“I think oftentimes in Alaska progressive messages or Democrats have gotten drowned out by this ‘We don’t think Democrats are going to win’… and we just kind of assume Republicans or conservatives are going to win,” Cocallas said.
People do support the issues that Shein is running for, she added.
Getting younger people involved in politics and business is also a large focus of Shein’s campaign. Part of their efforts have been to attend university events, especially at UAA, to understand what their priorities are.
Shein is also interested in participating in a debate with the UAA Seawolf Debate team in hopes to make conversation between candidates and the younger generation.
“I think it would be a great tradition to start to get younger people and college students involved in the political process of actual candidates for public office,” Shein said. “It would be a great way to test how legit and how much substance there is to their platform and policy.”
For Melissa Shein, Alaska has unique resources and “great people” to help solve its biggest problems.
“We have the capacity to make great things happen for our state. We just need to have a forward-thinking plan and leaders who aren’t afraid to discuss these things,” she said.
Despite Alaska’s needs, Shein is optimistic about the state.
“We have great culture, wonderful history and we have very resilient people here in Alaska,” Shein said. “I think when times get tough, we’ll pull together and solve problems.”
Shein’s campaign information can be found at dimitriforcongress.com.