Jay Paterno, a son of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, is running for lieutenant governor.
Paterno, 45, will seek the Democratic nomination in the primary election, he told the Centre Daily Times on Thursday. His campaign website launched early Thursday, was taken down and was re-launched Thursday afternoon at www.votejaypaterno.com.
“I want to bring new leadership to Harrisburg,” Paterno said. “I want to get down there and be someone who will listen, build consensus, lead and bring the voices from people all over the state to Harrisburg.”
The current lieutenant governor is Jim Cawley, a Republican who defeated another Centre County Democrat, Scott Conklin, in the 2010 general election. The lieutenant governor’s post pays a salary of $157,765.
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Paterno said he is concentrating on getting the required 1,000 signatures from registered Democrats so his name can be on the ballot in the spring.
The ballot for the Democratic nomination could be crowded, with candidates such as state Sen. Mike Stack, of Philadelphia, and former state and U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, of Johnstown, having declared their intentions to run. The popularity of the Paterno name across the state, though, certainly cannot be ignored.
Paterno declined to speak in depth about his platform until he secures all the signatures, but he said education will be one of the central issues once he hits the campaign trail.
“Education is the key to the future of this state,” he said. “That’s going to produce the people who are ready to compete in the global marketplace.”
Paterno said he’d champion the cause of Penn State and other universities that get state funding.
“No one is ever going to be a more forceful advocate for what we need to do to remain world-class,” he said.
Among the duties of the lieutenant governor are taking over for the governor, presiding over the state Senate and breaking ties in some circumstances, chairing the state Board of Pardons and participating on several state commissions.
Paterno has long been thought to have been consid- ering a political run. Pennsylvania Democrats had their eye on him as a candidate for the 5th Congressional District, which is held by U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, who is up for re-election this year.
But Paterno said Thursday he wanted to run for an office in which he’d be able to serve the most people. That led to the lieutenant governor position.
“I think this is a role, if I’m fortunate to earn from the voters, I can benefit the most people of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” he said.
Paterno coached as an assistant under his father from 1995 to 2011, but after his father was fired, successor Bill O’Brien didn’t keep him on his staff. Now, Paterno works as the executive director of a friend’s nonprofit organization that fights malaria in Africa.
In addition, he is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the NCAA and Penn State over the NCAA sanctions connected with the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Specific- ally, Paterno claims the NCAA’s consent decree defamed him and has prevented him from being able to get a job coaching football.
Paterno and his wife, Kelly, and their children reside in College Township.