Pitching himself as “standing for honest progressive values,” Democratic Party candidate Dimitri Shein visited Homer on Monday as part of his campaign to defeat Congressman Don Young. Shein faces fellow Anchorage candidates Gregory Jones and Alyse Galvin to win the Democratic Party nomination, although Galvin is running as undeclared or independent. Under Democratic Party rules allowing independents to run for the party nomination, Galvin could win the nomination.
Shein, 37, visited Cook Inletkeeper, Alice’s Champagne Palace and K-Bay Cafée for informal visits with citizens. At a noon lunch question-and-answer session at Alice’s, Shein met with about 15 citizens for a discussion that ranged from health care to gun control.
Born in Vladivostok in the former Soviet Union, Shein immigrated to Anchorage at age 12 with his mother and baby sister. Now a naturalized U.S. citizen, in his campaign website biography he describes a rough childhood living in an Anchorage women’s shelter. His mother worked at Walmart while going to the University of Alaska Anchorage. Shein also attended UAA, earning an accounting degree and become a certified public accountant. In his practice he balanced books for tribal governments and traveled through rural Alaska. His wife, Melissa, is a physician, and they have six children, including four adopted girls.
At the Alice’s event, Shein spoke about one of his major campaign pitches, Medicare for All. A proposal pushed by presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Medicare for All would be a single-payer national health care system — essentially, dropping an age requirement for Medicare, the senior health care insurance program, and enrolling every American. Shein said Americans would pay for it with a 2 percent increase in payroll taxes. In Alaska, the program could be managed by Alaska Native health and other nonprofit consortiums.
Americans already pay a “tax” in health insurance premiums, Shein said.
“If you boil down what health insurance is, it’s a tax — and this tax is unpredictable,” he said. “The reality is, employers are sick of this system as well. There are enough people paying for this cost who are ready for a change.”
Shein said some people think Alaskans aren’t ready for Medicare for All. He said he doesn’t believe it, and that’s part of why he’s running for Congress.
“I think we are ready,” he said. “The only way to find out is go to the general election.”
Two days after the March for Life events held nationally and locally, the issue of gun control came up. Led by survivors of the the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida, the #neveragain movement advocates for digitalizing Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm records, universal background checks for purchases of firearms, and bans on high-capacity ammunition magazines and assault-style rifles like the AR-15 used in the Parkland shooting.
Shein said he agreed with part of the #neveragain platform as well as keeping firearms out of the hands of mentally ill people. He doesn’t support an outright ban on high-capacity magazines or assault rifles.
“When you start using the word ‘ban’ we get further apart,” he said.
Rather than a ban, Shein said he would support proposals for gun enthusiasts who want to shoot rifles like the AR-15 to do so safely at gun ranges.
“We could have a permitting system where someone fills out a permit, pays $25 and says I have a safe … that would be a reasonable step and we will get these people this much, this far to move some kind of registration forward,” he said. “…If our aim is to reduce substantial access to these weapons, I think we could accomplish that.”
On other issues like keeping access to abortion, Shein noted that his wife is a physician and they have five daughters.
“I fully support them being able to control their bodies,” he said. “I support women’s choice over their bodies.”
On opening up the 10-02 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling, Shein said he didn’t support the recent bill that made that possible.
“The long-term argument for drilling in the refuge — I’m struggling,” he said. “I struggle with the question of the Arctic Refuge. It’s sacred to the Gwichin people.”
Candidates running for Congress have until June 1 to file for office in the Aug. 21 primary. For more information on Shein, visit http://dimitriforcongress.com.