New Castle News

Closer Look

March 1, 2014

John K. Manna: Son of football legend leads political field in poll

NEW CASTLE — Jay Paterno announced last week that he will be a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in the May primary.

Earlier this week, a poll showed Paterno leading the field of Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor by a slim margin. The survey, conducted by Harper Polling, included six candidates. For the record, it excluded the lone female running for the position.

Nonetheless, the poll shows what name recognition will do for you.

Being the son of legendary football coach Joe Paterno doesn’t hurt. Jay Paterno did gain some notoriety on his own as Penn State’s quarterbacks coach for several seasons.

The others in the Democratic field include a state representative, a state senator, a county commissioner and former U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, who Lawrence County voters should be familiar with.

Obviously, the common thread among these men is that they have governmental and political experience. Paterno has not held public office.

Does this make him less qualified? Maybe not.

The saving grace for any candidate for lieutenant governor, though, is that it is a position in which a person has time to learn the ropes since the lieutenant governor’s duties are limited.

However, the position is not one to be taken lightly since the lieutenant governor can suddenly be elevated to the top executive post if illness or death should occur to the governor.

Then there was the suggestion from Keystone Politics this week that Paterno ought to consider running for the state Senate post currently held by Sen. Jake Corman, a Republican of Centre County. The argument is that if Paterno wants to help advance progressive politics in the state, the best thing to do is run for the Senate and abandon “this doomed campaign for lieutenant governor.”

It does raise the issue of whether a person seeking the second top executive post in Pennsylvania should have some government experience. The current occupant, Lt. Jim Cawley, had some government experience, serving as a Bucks County commissioner.

One could ask: Did that really prepare Cawley to be lieutenant governor? Or is a former quarterbacks coach just as prepared?

As far as Paterno’s campaign for lieutenant governor being doomed, consider the fact that in 2010 Cawley won the Republican nomination with just 26 percent of the vote in a field of nine candidates.

The fact is voters don’t pay as much attention to the lieutenant governor candidates as they do to those running for governor. So anything is possible.

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