PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For years, Jay Paterno was on the field with his dad as an assistant coach at Penn State.
Now he wants to be lieutenant governor.
So when he sat down with KDKA political editor Jon Delano for his first TV interview since announcing, the basic question was — why?
“Having had a career in education for two decades, education is an issue I feel very passionately about,” says Paterno. “I felt like a lot of different people talked to me about doing a lot of different things politically, and I looked at it and thought this is where I can do the most good for the most people in the state of Pennsylvania.”
He knows some will think he’s trading on his dad’s celebrity.
Delano: “Some people will say, Jay Paterno, he’s a nice guy, but he’s running on his father’s name. Are you?”
Paterno: “No, not at all. I’m running — I’m a guy who’s been on my own in terms of building my own reputation, my own life, my own family for over two decades.”
The father of five and married to a woman from Pittsburgh, Jay has strong family ties to this region.
“My mom was born in Pittsburgh. My grandmother was born in Pittsburgh from my mom’s side. My grandfather was from Latrobe,” said Paterno. “So I spent a lot of time running around here.”
Now he’s running around the state, seeking to win the Democratic nomination in a crowded May Primary with two local candidates, former Congressman Mark Critz and Pa. Rep. Brandon Neuman.
One poll shows Paterno with a one-point lead over Critz.
“One thing about coaching is you realize the pre-season polls don’t mean anything,” says Paterno.
And Paterno says his dad taught — keep an open mind.
“If I heard him say once, and I believe this very firmly, if you don’t listen to people you disagree with, you’ll never learn anything,” he said.
Paterno knows that his familiar last name could both help and hurt him.
“Probably some of both. I mean to be very frank with you. You know, that’s for other people to decide. I don’t know which way it goes,” he said. “But I hope what it does is it opens for other people to give me a listen and hear what we have to say.”
Unfair as it may be, it’s hard to think Paterno without thinking of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and he knows it.
Delano: “Do you think the whole Jerry Sandusky thing helps you or hurts you?”
Paterno: “I don’t think it does either. I think it’s one of those things if other people want to bring it up, then so be it. They can talk about it.”
Paterno says he wants to talk issues important to citizens like education, and he thinks he can help the Democratic candidate for governor beat Tom Corbett.
“Because I was on the road recruiting and being all over the place, I’m very comfortable campaigning anywhere in the state,” he said.
But defeating Corbett is not personal, says Paterno, even though polls show many Penn State fans angry at Corbett for his treatment of Penn State and voting to fire Joe Paterno as coach.
Delano: “Is that a reason for you to run for office?”
Paterno: “Not at all. Not even remotely. That’s not something I even talked about. All we talked about is what good can we do for the most people of Pennsylvania. And I know that’s a story that people won’t want to hear, but it’s just the truth. This is so much bigger than just that.”
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