Jay Paterno

Joe Paterno's family has sued to overturn the NCAA sanctions, arguing that Penn State was wrongly forced by the NCAA to accept the penalties that harmed the school, defamed Paterno's memory and affected the ability of his son and assistant coach, Jay Paterno, who is pictured here.

Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Jay Paterno ended his campaign for the office.

The former Penn State assistant football coach, son of the late beloved head coach, said Friday afternoon he was withdrawing from the race for the Democratic nomination.

Paterno was facing a legal challenge based on the validity of signatures on his nominating petitions. One of his challengers, Harrisburg city councilman Brad Koplinski, had retained a lawyer to take Paterno to court over the issue.

Major party candidates for lieutenant governor must submit the signatures of 1,000 registered party voters — including 100 from each of five different counties.

Paterno issued a statement saying that it had become clear that the ballot challenge could be a long process with potential appeals carrying beyond Monday’s scheduled 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,” he said in the statement. “The outcome of this election is too important for the future of the working families and all the people of this Commonwealth.”

Paterno coached as an assistant under his father from 1995 to 2011. He remained with the team after his father was dismissed as coach but was not retained by new coach Bill O’Brien. Now, he works as the executive director of a nonprofit organization that fights malaria in Africa.

Remaining in the Democratic contest for lieutenant governor are Philadelphia state Sen. Michael Stack, Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith, former U.S. Rep. Mark Critz and Koplinski.

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Karen Shuey is a Lancaster Newspapers staff writer who covers state and federal government and politics. She can be reached at kshuey@lnpnews.com or (717) 291-8716. You can also follow @Karen_Shuey on Twitter.