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In the state House District 35 race, incumbent Austin Davis is facing off against write-in candidate and independent Don Nevills of Clairton.
Don Nevills is a 14-year Navy veteran and small business owner.
“I’m sick and tired of all the corruption and lies,” Nevills said. “I used to complain about it but now I wanted to step up and actually try to make a difference.”
Nevills is running as a write-in candidate because he joined the race after the primary. Nevills also considered a bid at a U.S. House of Representatives seat, but would have needed to get 5,000 signatures on petitions to be placed on the ballot as an independent.
Party: Independent (write-in candidate)
Education: Clairton High School, 1981
Career: Chief petty officer and master training specialist, U.S. Navy, 1981–1995; tattoo artist and owner of Jolly Roger Tattoo Supply and Ice 9 Studio, Pittsburgh; member of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Clairton (RACC)
“I think it’s unfair,” Nevills said. “An independent candidate needs 5,000 signatures versus a Republican or Democrat who only needs 1,000. This is one of the things I am seeking to change. I want campaign reform. Five-thousand signatures is what you need to run for President, that’s just crazy.”
Nevills he does have a plan for how he would start his term as a legislator.
“On Day 1, I would get out into the community,” he said. “I would talk to the people. I would make myself available to the people and listen to what they had to say.”
While Nevills is running as an Independent, he said he leans conservative in some positions.
“I have been a registered independent most of my life, but I am ex-military and I do lean more right-of-center,” Nevills said. “For instance, my stance on abortion. I am pro-life. I am also pro-fracking. However, I do think that we can find ways to make fracking safer for the environment. I live in Clairton and the coke plant is a big deal. I believe we can find a good balance while keeping Pennsylvanians working.”
Nevills also has been thinking about the mistrust that has developed between police officers and the community.
“I would like to sit down with the local police chiefs and see the type of training that these officers are receiving,” Nevills said. “I would make sure they get proper training. These men are on the front line between chaos and safety. Lastly, I’d try to flush out the bad cops and remove them.”
Nevills is also aware of the challenges suffered by small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevills was the owner of a small tattoo supply company that did not make it during the economic shutdown.
“It was a business heavily focused on cashflow,” he said. “Those couple of months with no cash flow simply killed us. Things were not handled properly with unemployment payouts either.”
Another area of focus for Nevills “if elected” will be assisting small businesses with recovery and growth, he said.
Nevills said his years in the Navy helped shape him and his values in positive ways.
When asked what he would like people to remember about him when they vote, Nevills said, “I’m for the people, not a party.”
Jason A. Mignanelli is a freelance writer from Pittsburgh’s North Hills and a student at Duquesne University. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published October 29, 2020.