Jay Paterno withdraws from Pa. lieutenant governor race

Citing the hurdles posed by a challenge to his nominating petitions, Jay Paterno, the former football coach and son of the late Penn State University icon, Joe Paterno, announced Friday that he is dropping out of the campaign for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.

Mr. Paterno’s petitions had been challenged by another candidate for the second spot on the Democratic ticket, Harrisburg Councilman Brad Koplinski.

His withdrawal leaves a Democratic field including Mr. Koplinski, Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith, former U.S. Rep. Mark Critz of Johnstown, state Rep. Brandon Neuman of Washington County and state Sen. Mike Stack of Philadelphia.

A hearing on the petition challenge had been scheduled for Monday. The state’s election laws require candidates for lieutenant governor to obtain a total of 1,000 signatures from registered voters across the state including at least 100 signatures from each of five separate counties.

In a statement distributed by his campaign, Mr. Paterno said, “This afternoon I am announcing my intent to withdraw from the Lt. Governor’s race. Over the past twenty-four hours in talking with attorneys it has become clear that the ballot challenge could be a long process with potential decisions and appeals carrying beyond Monday’s hearing.

“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. The outcome of this election is too important for the future of the working families and all the people of this Commonwealth.”

Mr. Paterno made a relatively late entrance into the race, but his built-in name recognition made him a credible candidate in a field of a half-dozen Democrats who are all relatively unknown to the state’s voters.

Though he pressed the litigation that forced Mr. Paterno to the political sidelines, Mr. Koplinski released a statement praising his recent rival.

“Mr. Paterno was a first-time candidate who joined the race late, who, despite his best effort, was unable to meet the sometime confusing requirements necessary to be certified,” Mr. Koplinski said. “Mr. Paterno would have added a great deal to the lieutenant governor’s race, especially with his views on education. I hope that he will continue to be a voice in Democratic politics for many years to come.”

Mr. Paterno has been active in Democratic politics for years. He campaigned for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Before he entered the statewide race, there had been rumors that he might run for Congress.

He said that he was attracted to the lieutenant governor’s contest because he saw it as an outlet for his interest in education. While the controversy over the Jerry Sandusky investigation pursued by Gov. Tom Corbett when he was state attorney general and the subsequent firing of Joe Paterno continue to reverberate through Pennsylvania politics, Mr. Paterno insisted that his candidacy was unrelated to those issues.

Politics editor James O’Toole: jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562. First Published March 28, 2014 4:04 PM

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