If you want to indulge in some PA politics themed April Foolery this year you’ll have to head over to Politics PA.
All we have is an exciting scoop that key Democratic movers and shakers in Harrisburg are mounting a serious effort to recruit Jay Paterno for a write-in campaign in Senate District 34, currently held by Republican rising star Jake Corman.
These Democrats see real potential for Paterno to knock off Corman, as do I, as the Paterno name is huge in Centre County, and the Republican incumbent has voted for all of Tom Corbett’s education cuts – the top issue in the campaign. SD34 has a partisan lean of like R+5, down from R+7 pre-redistricting, but Kathleen Kane won 52.7% of the vote there so it’s definitely winnable for Democrats. Also, 9.2% of the electorate is new to Corman. Corman almost certainly has more of a name recognition gap to make up than Paterno does.
Now that Paterno has dropped out of the Lt. Governor’s race, this race is the best possible use of his political energies, and the best possible way that he can help the Democratic team since Ds only need 3 seats to take the state Senate majority.
It’s also the best move Paterno can make right now if he actually is serious about a statewide political office. The lesson of this whole brouhaha with the signature challenge is that, however famous Paterno is, he can’t just jump to statewide office right away. He doesn’t have the statewide political connections even to get onto the statewide ballot, so he needs to win a lower office first and develop his political brand. The state Senate is a perfect place to do that. There are few enough Senators that he can stand out if he works hard, and state Senators do often go on to run for statewide offices.
If Paterno has aspirations to try this again in another cycle, he needs to take a step back to take the next step forward. Do what Hillary Clinton did post-White House. Clinton was already a famous political player as First Lady and as a policy entrepreneur and political figure in the Clinton White House. She probably had the name recognition and the fame to run for President, but she knew she needed to establish her political bona fides first, so she ran for US Senate in New York where she established a reputation as a workhorse, and built rapport with other elected Democrats.
That is exactly what Paterno has to do. He’ll enjoy unlimited gratitude from his Democratic colleagues if he helps them take the Senate majority, he’ll have an opportunity to frame out his political brand and get to know the issues, and then he’ll have a much stronger support foundation if he wants to pursue higher office.