Our View | Jay Paterno fumbles 1st stab at politics

April 1, 2014 

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Jay Paterno encourages the Bryce Jordan Center during the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon on Saturday, February 16, 2013.

ABBY DREY — CDT photo Buy Photo

A judge on Tuesday granted Jay Paterno’s request to have his name pulled from the Democratic ballot for lieutenant governor amid an opponent’s challenge of his petition signatures.

That leaves us to wonder:

Why would a prominent person seek the No. 2 office in the state and not make sure all of the important details were in order?

A former Penn State assistant football coach who once handled complex game plans should have done better. If he thought campaign signatures were a small matter, he was naive.

Paterno, facing a court challenge from Harrisburg candidate Brad Koplinski, missed the Department of State’s March 26 deadline to withdraw on his own from the race. So he had to file a petition with the state Commonwealth Court.

He did so Monday, the same day Koplinski requested a continuance in his challenge to Paterno’s signatures. Koplinski contended that Paterno failed to get the required 1,000 valid signatures and that signatures he received did not represent enough of the state.

Paterno’s campaign chose stepping down over fighting the challenge, which suggests a game that could not be won.

Remaining Democratic contenders for lieutenant governor are Koplinski, a Harrisburg city councilman; former U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, of Johnstown; Mark Smith, a Bradford County commissioner; Brandon Neuman, a state representative from Washington County; and Mike Stack, a state senator from Philadelphia.

Republican incumbent Jim Cawley is unopposed in the primary.

“With less than two months remaining before the primary, I do not want an ongoing legal back-and-forth to be a distraction in this race,” Paterno said Friday, in announcing his plans to step aside. “The outcome of this election is too important for the future of the working families and all the people of this commonwealth.”

We see irony in Paterno’s jumping from the race for lieutenant governor, even as his family’s defamation lawsuit against the NCAA continues.

That suit, which now also includes Penn State as a defendant, claims Paterno was unable to get coaching jobs in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and NCAA sanctions because his reputation was “toxic” and not because he wasn’t ready.

Apparently, being the quarterbacks coach on his own father’s Penn State staff automatically made him a prime candidate for head coaching positions at Boston College, Connecticut and other schools that instead chose someone else.

Jay Paterno is a bright and engaging individual. We hope he rebounds and considers running for public office again someday.

But we also hope he has learned some lessons from his failed attempt to become Pennsylvania’s next lieutenant governor.

First, nobody will simply set him up in a political office. That’s a job he’ll need to work for through campaigning, fundraising and making sure all of the smallest details are addressed.

And second, he shouldn’t be afraid to start a little lower next time. There’s something to be said for sacrifice, patience and a willingness to work your way up — in coaching and in politics.

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