HARRISBURG – Jay Paterno, son of the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, told the Associated Press Thursday that he is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania.
Paterno said he is beginning to circulate petitions to get on the May 20 primary ballot, the first campaign for public office for a longtime assistant football coach.
Party officials expected Paterno might run for Congress in north-central Pennsylvania, but Paterno said he believes he can serve Pennsylvanians better by staying in the state.
“What it really came down to for me is, where does my family come from?” Paterno said.
Paterno was an assistant coach under his father through 2011, was working on a book and runs a nonprofit aimed at eradicating malaria in Africa. He was active in Democratic Party politics, campaigning for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.
He said he will be a forceful advocate for public schools and universities, and views himself as someone who is adept at building bridges after growing up in a mixed family of Democrats and Republicans, among them his father.
Scott Paterno, another son of the Hall of Fame coach, ran for Congress in 2004 as a Republican but lost handily to the Democratic incumbent, Tim Holden.
The Democratic field in the lieutenant governor’s race is big, with six declared candidates, including State Rep. Brandon Neuman of North Strabane, but none has Paterno’s name recognition. Paterno touted himself as someone who can bring new ideas to the state Capitol because he comes from outside the world of politics.
“I’m going to come and challenge the conventional wisdom, simply because that’s what’s needed,” Paterno said. “I think people are looking for something new and fresh and that’s what I’m going to bring.”
The deadline to submit enough signatures to get on the ballot is March 11.
Candidates for lieutenant governor and governor run separately in the primary, but party nominees run together in the general election.
The elder Paterno died in January 2012, two months after being fired by university trustees as the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal exploded. Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is seeking re-election in November, and Paterno’s candidacy could serve as a reminder to Penn State fans who have been critical of his role in the elder Paterno’s firing.
Jay Paterno, however, said he is not running out of revenge.
“I want to make it clear that I’m running because I stand for something, not because I’m running against someone else,” he said.