By Barney Blakeney
Dimitri Cherny is a radical candidate who thinks outside-the-box for the future of the people of the Lowcountry, America and the planet. He says that’s exactly what he’s doing offering himself as a candidate in the June 12 Republican primary for the U.S. Congressional First District seat.
To many, that’s an unconventional strategy for the solidly liberal nor ’easterner who threw his support behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the last presidential election. Disgusted that the leadership of both parties have migrated toward big money and away from “We the People”, Cherny is not a blue democrat or a red republican. Like most of us, Cherny is somewhere in the middle – beholden to no political party and eager to work with anyone willing to improve the quality of life of all Americans. And yes, he’s unconventional.
In 2016 Cherny sought election to the same office as a Democrat and faced Cong. Mark Sanford who won the heavily conservative swayed district. Cherny thinks beyond the labels – conservative/liberal and Democrat/Republican – there are many voters in the district who share his ideals of efficient and effective government that is committed to providing equal opportunity and justice for all and is determined to help ensure the long-term survival and advancement of our civilization. But they’re loyal Republicans. He wants those voters to know him.
Born in 1960, Cherny was the second child and first son in a family of seven. His parents were Eastern European World War II refugees. He spent much of his youth in the mountains of New England, hiking, sailing, climbing and canoeing. After earning an electrical engineering degree, he began a successful career in the high-tech industry as a product manager who would think outside the box to create radical solutions that his competitors had never considered. That work first took him all over the country, working for a number of startups, two of his own, and then all over the world. He traveled to third world countries with desperate poverty, where a few had incredible wealth while most suffered.
He also visited nations where even a low wage worker could hope to own a home and not have to worry about illness or old age. Each time he returned to the U.S., where the country was embroiled in an unnecessary war while the middle class was rapidly disappearing. In 2007, Dimitri became disillusioned selling software to the Fortune 500 while civilization was seemingly heading for collapse. Looking for more meaningful work, his out-of-the-box thinking led him to invent and receive a patent on an airborne wind energy system and to start a company to develop it. That brought him to South Carolina.
When the recession hit, investors for renewable energy dried up. Unable to find another job, penniless and homeless, Dimitri found himself living in his car and off the kindness of friends and family. Desperate, he saw an ad for a no-money down truck driving school. He began a new career driving big-rigs, eventually traveling through 47 states. While driving the highways of America, he met people in every state who he didn’t know existed. To Cherny it became clear our current economy is a zero-sum game, rigged to keep the winners winning, and the losers losing.
In 2014, while driving trucks out of the ports of Charleston, and nights sleeping on a houseboat he’d built and anchored in the Ashley River, Cherny decided to run as an independent write-in candidate for Congress against Mark Sanford. After the votes were tallied, he had received almost six percent overall and ten percent of the vote in Charleston, an unusually high percentage for a write-in candidate.
After the election, Cherny became one of the founding members of Black Lives Matter Charleston. He helped form the Charleston chapter of SURJ, Showing Up for Racial Justice. After the Emanuel AME murders, he spearheaded an effort to remove the flag from the South Carolina Statehouse and helped to get more than a million signatures, which pressured the governor to take action. Within a couple of months of the murders, Dimitri helped form Gun Sense SC to educate South Carolinians on the efficacy of gun purchase background checks. Cherny also works to promote equal educational opportunities, encourages art for social justice, assists in the movement to expand the public transit system in Charleston and stands up for the LGBTQ community.
He participates in the movement to prevent offshore drilling and is passionate about helping the homeless. He has worked to find resources and land for a tiny house village or micro-apartments and connected with numerous people and organizations working on similar projects helping the homeless. His goal has been to make a lasting positive difference in the lives of as many people as possible and to fight for those without a voice. He’s working to ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people, regardless of where they started in life.
Cherny’s rise and fall through the American economy made him realize how easily, and unexpectedly, any of us could find ourselves in a similar situation. Roughly 75 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, many unable to put anything away in savings. Even those who are making larger salaries are on shaky ground, denied cost of living increases and robbed of job security and pensions, he says. Looking to make an even bigger difference in the quality of life of Lowcountry residents, Cherny believes what’s needed is radical out-of-the-box thinking.
In 2016 thinking outside the box, Cherny rode his bike and paddled and sailed his little canoe for 80 days and 1,000 miles all over the First Congressional District, sleeping on the couches of new friends, talking to hundreds of people, and asking lots of questions. He found there are five basic concerns among the district’s voters – healthcare, education, social security, veteran’s benefits and taking big money out of politics to end corruption.
He thinks those are the voters who will support him in the June 12 primary – Democrats, Independents and Republicans – who want someone in Washington who will represent all the people. It’s a strategy that exemplifies Cherny’s typical out-of-the-box thinking. And one he knows will make him successful in Washington.