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WESA Candidate Survey: Austin Davis and Donald Nevills on the issues

We surveyed Republican Donald Nevills and Democrat Austin Davis, the candidates for Pennsylvania's 35th State House District, on top issues for the 2022 election. (Note: Davis is also running for lieutenant governor).

About the WESA Candidate Survey: In August, WESA sent surveys to all candidates running in competitive races for federal and state offices in our listening area, including Allegheny, Armstrong, Cambria, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Lawrence, Washington, and Westmoreland counties. Our candidate survey was based upon input we solicited from voters.

We have fixed basic capitalization and punctuation issues, but have not otherwise edited candidates' answers.

In the wake of the Dobbs decision, some state lawmakers believe Pennsylvania should ban abortion after six weeks, with no exceptions. Would you support such a proposal — yes/no?

  • Please explain your stance and identify other changes, if any, you would like to make to the state’s abortion laws.

Davis: Josh Shapiro and I are committed to protecting the right to choose and ensuring Pennsylvania remains a place where freedom is respected and everyone is able to raise a family on their own terms. Our opponents would implement an extreme abortion ban — without exception for rape, incest, or life of the mother. I sit in the Legislature, and have watched as my Republican colleagues have already passed bills to restrict abortion in Pennsylvania. The stakes of this race could not be higher: electing Josh Shapiro is the only way to protect the right to choose in Pennsylvania.

Nevills: Yes. I’m pro-life. However, I am willing to come to the table to discuss this issue and reach a viable solution for the people. That’s how politics are supposed to work.

Pennsylvania's minimum wage has been set at the federal rate of $7.25 an hour since 2009. Do you favor state action to change the minimum wage? Yes/no?

  • Please explain our stance and, if you support a change, identify the minimum wage rate you believe is appropriate.

Davis: In 2006, I had my first job as a cashier at Rite Aid and the minimum wage at the time was $5.15 an hour. Fast forward sixteen years later, the minimum wage has only increased to $7.25 an hour. It’s clear that the current minimum wage in Pennsylvania isn't a living wage — it’s a poverty wage. A Shapiro-Davis administration will raise the Pennsylvania minimum wage for the first time in over a decade to at least $15 an hour — giving the workers of Pennsylvania the raise they deserve.

Nevills: Yes. I’m in favor of raising the min wage some, but not to $15 per hour. I would be looking more around the $9 mark.

Do you support no-excuse mail-in voting in Pennsylvania — yes/no?

  • Please explain your stance and identify any other changes you believe should be made to state voting laws.

Davis: When the Legislature passed Act 77, it brought a wave of generational improvements to make our democracy more accessible to the people, and in 2020, 2.6 million Pennsylvanians voted by mail. Josh Shapiro and I will continue to protect that right and will work to ensure voters have access to the ballot box and that every legal vote is counted in every election.

Nevills: No. We need fair and honest elections. These no excuse votes have made the system extremely vulnerable to both sides. I will promote voter ID and reversing Act 77.

Do you support Pennsylvania’s involvement in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which sets pricing for carbon emissions — yes/no?

  • Please explain your stance, and describe any changes you wish to see to state energy or climate policy.

Davis: I know that we can both protect jobs and protect our planet — and Josh Shapiro and I will work to ensure that Pennsylvania has a comprehensive climate and energy policy that moves us all forward. We will be an all of the above energy team in Harrisburg who will take advantage of the unique position we have in Pennsylvania to create more jobs, while also utilizing our natural resources and protecting the jobs we already have.

Nevills: No. This is all about money grabs and chases away industry, which means less jobs.

Inflation is a concern for Pennsylvanians, and some legislators have called for either reducing or suspending the 58-cent-a-gallon gas tax. Would you support such a measure? Yes/no?

  • If yes, how would you replace the revenue to pay for State Police and road spending — and are there other inflation-fighting policies you would pursue?

Davis: As the proud son of a union bus driver and a hairdresser, I know the struggles facing working families first hand. Josh and I have a plan to boost our economy and help Pennsylvania’s working families by sending every Pennsylvanian a $250 gas tax refund, eliminating the state cell phone tax, and expanding the Property Tax and Rent Rebate Program – providing direct relief to families across the Commonwealth. Josh and I have a clear record of delivering results for working-class Pennsylvanians and that’s exactly what we’ll do as a governing team in Harrisburg.

Nevills: Yes. I’m willing to suspend it because it’s not used properly. If we directed the money to the correct place, we could reduce the tax and have good roads. Too many pet projects getting funded that don’t benefit us all.

In the face of rising homicide and other crime rates, would you support requiring universal background checks for gun purchases? Yes/no?

  • Please explain your stance, and describe other approaches to fighting crime that you would support.

Davis: Nearly 17 years ago, a man was shot no more than 50 feet from our front door. The shooting inspired me to take action and put me on a path to public service. But nearly two decades later, Pennsylvania communities continue to suffer from gun violence and crime. That’s why Josh Shapiro and I have put forward a plan to tackle this issue head on in the Commonwealth. We will make our communities safer by closing the ghost gun loophole, enacting universal background checks, and passing stronger red flag laws here in Pennsylvania.

Nevills: No. Criminals always get guns. There are over 20,000 gun laws on the books. Let’s enforce the law, punish criminals to the fullest extent and leave Law abiding citizens alone to protect themselves. Universal background is a back door gun registry.

School funding in Pennsylvania is heavily supported by property taxes. Would you support efforts to change that system — yes/no?

  • Please explain your stance and describe the changes you would support to how public education is funded.

Davis: I know how important education is in creating opportunities for our children to succeed. I’m the proud product of the McKeesport public school system and my parents worked extremely hard to ensure that my sister and I became first-generation college graduates. Josh and I will make improving our education system a priority in Harrisburg and ensure that every child has access to a quality education. We will fully fund our schools, put parents on the Board of Education, end our reliance on standardized tests, put a mental health counselor in every single school, and invest in vocational, technical, and computer training.

Nevills: Yes. I’m pro school choice, parental rights, and their inclusion in everything their child does while in school, including curriculum decisions. It’s not up to school boards and teachers. I believe tax dollars should follow the child to whatever school they choose.

Emily Previti is a podcast producer and data journalist, and executive editor and co-creator of Obscured from Kouvenda Media.