You can take a former elections coordinator out of politics, but you can't take politics out of a former elections coordinator.
So, you can imagine my excitement yesterday when not one, but two big political stories broke concerning Pennsylvania Democrats.
First came word that Jay Paterno, son of long-time Penn State football coach Joe Paterno (in fact, Jay is really JVP Jr.) decided to jump into the free for all that is the race for lieutenant governor. I'll write more about exactly how this announcement unfolded in a bit.
Then, almost lost in all the JayPa buzz was the word that former state auditor general Jack Wagner was jumping into the crowded field of Democrats running for governor.
Considering that, where both races are concerned, most of the candidates announced quite a while ago, Jay and Jack look like latecomers to the party. But, both already have statewide name recognition, they're entering crowded races in which no clear frontrunner has emerged, and Tuesday was the first day to start circulating nominating petitions. So really, it's not like these folks have any serious catching up to do. Game on!
Some further thoughts. Regarding Wagner, I thought he would have been in the race long before now. Not sure why he wasn't (Keystone Politics may have the answer to that question), but he and his "people" no doubt took notice earlier this month when none of the current candidates got enough support at the Democratic State Committee meeting in Hershey to win the party's endorsement.
Rob McCord received the most support. Tom Wolf had a decent showing, and so did Allyson Schwartz. Wagner doesn't seem to have an official campaign website yet, but it probably won't take much to make jackwagner.org active again.
Jay Paterno was also reportedly rubbing elbows with the party bigwigs in Hershey. Paterno was said to be a likely choice to challenge GOP Congressman Glenn Thompson in the 5th District. But, the district is gerrymandered to tilt solidly Republican, and unseating an incumbent is always difficult.
Seeing the lack of consensus concerning the best Democrat to challenge Gov. Corbett, Paterno may have decided that his better course of action was to add his name to the already long list of potential candidates for lieutenant governor. Despite his lack of political experience, Paterno has a name that will stand out in a field of no-names (Brad Koplinski seemed to be the favorite up til now). While there are some people who will definitely NOT vote for him because he's a Paterno, if he can get even 20% of the primary vote, he stands a good chance of moving on to November.
The way we learned about Paterno's candidacy was something of a mystery. It took me a while to figure out if it was real or a joke.
It started around mid-morning on Thursday when I noticed a Tweet from a student-run news site called Onward State. The Tweet linked to an article about Jay Paterno running for lieutenant governor. The article cited a statement and biographical information on Paterno's campaign website. But, when I clicked on the link to that website, all I got was a blank, blue background.
The mystery deepened when other news outlets also cited information on this alleged website. Efforts to view that website, however, continued to lead to a blue screen and later to a page that looked like the site had been taken down altogether. What candidate takes down his own website? I checked out the source code and discovered that the site was hosted by Wix.com. To my mind, an unusual choice for someone running for statewide office.
Not til early afternoon did the Paterno candidacy start to take on a ring of truth. News stories started to cite local party officials as saying Paterno had told them he was running for lieutenant governor. Then, someone managed to get confirmation from Paterno himself.
Around 2 p.m, Jay Paterno took to Twitter to say that, yes, he is running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.
Appreciate the interest The web site is going live at 4 pm (which was the plan) http://t.co/kdORwxGqaq Thanks for your patience
Jay Paterno (@JayPaterno) February 20, 2014
So, it's not a joke! He really is running for lieutenant governor!
I'm a registered Independent, so I can't vote in the primary. I've never met Jay Paterno, and I don't have any reason to favor (or not favor) him over any other candidate. But, here are my general impressions so far.
If the website was supposed to go "live" at 4pm, how did someone manage to "find" it hours earlier? In my experience, websites hosted by Wix are not easy to find with a search engine. So, either a) the web designer screwed up; b) someone in the campaign leaked it on purpose; or c) someone can't keep a secret.
A good four or five hours passed from the time the site popped up and then quickly went down until Paterno gave any kind of confirmation. Once he confirmed it, it took close to another three hours (around 4:45pm) for the website to go up again. I'm not sure if the day's timeline is a sign of an incompetent campaign or brilliant campaign strategy.
Either way, as a former elections coordinator, my advice to this campaign is to put up website that can be easily found with a search engine and to start sending out news releases to media organizations with names and numbers of your campaign contacts.
A name and a Twitter account (even one with 57,000+ followers) will only get you so far. Ultimately, you have to play the game.