Jay Paterno: Lt. governor bid about 'standing for something'
By Adam Smeltz
Published: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 12:30 p.m.
Jay Paterno, a son of the late Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno, will run for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor as a Democrat.
Paterno, 45, of State College confirmed his bid on Thursday, describing a general vision to add jobs and promote equality. He avoided addressing policy positions and said he will introduce a detailed platform if he gains 1,000 petition signatures to appear on the May 20 primary ballot.
A half-dozen Democrats statewide have said they plan to run for the office in 2014.
“Education is going to be something that's very, very important — maybe the most important issue we're facing in the state. Obviously, employment is going to be key. Those things are going to go hand in hand,” said Paterno, who has a 20-year career in college athletics.
He was a quarterbacks coach at Penn State under his father, whom the university trustees fired during the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal in November 2011. Jay Paterno left the football program about two months later when the school hired head coach Bill O'Brien.
Muhlenberg College professor Christopher Borick said the family name should make Jay Paterno “a significant player” in the race, though the recognition could work for and against him because of the Sandusky scandal.
“This will liven up a race nobody ever cares about,” said Borick, who runs Muhlenberg's Institute of Public Opinion in Allentown. He said the family name could be a net benefit to Paterno by unifying his supporters and splintering his detractors among other candidates.
Long identified with Penn State football, the Paterno family and several others are suing to overturn sanctions the NCAA imposed on the school after the scandal. Jay Paterno claims the NCAA defamed him through its public response to the scandal, undermining his chances to become a football coach elsewhere.
He said supporters nudged him to run for office since he became more politically active in 2008, when he backed President Obama.
“Sooner or later, you've got to stand for something. I feel like it's time,” he said. Lieutenant governor is “the role where I can do the most good.”
Paterno's brother Scott Paterno ran for Congress as a Republican in 2004 but lost to then-incumbent Rep. Tim Holden, a Schuylkill County Democrat.
Democrats campaigning for lieutenant governor include former Congressman Mark Critz of Johnstown, former state Sen. Mike Stack of Philadelphia, Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski, Bradford County commissioner Mark Smith and a Harrisburg pastor, the Rev. Brenda Alton. The primary winner is expected to face Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, a Republican running for re-election with Gov. Tom Corbett.
“I don't really see this changing anything for us,” Corbett campaign spokesman Billy Pitman said of Paterno's candidacy.
Adam Smeltz is a Trib Total Media staff writer. The Associated Press contributed.
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