Paul Ryan's wife no stranger to Washington power circles

WASHINGTON Sun Aug 12, 2012 10:31pm EDT

1 of 3. U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) and his wife Ann (2nd R) wave to supporters together with his running mate U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) (2nd L) and Ryan's wife Janna during a campaign event in Ashland, Virginia August 11, 2012 file photo. Janna, 43, thrust onto the national stage this weekend when her congressman husband, Paul Ryan, was named the Republican vice presidential choice, strikes an appealing image as a stay-at-home mom raising three young children in Wisconsin. But she has been a Washington operative herself, hailing from a well-connected family and forging an early professional career as a congressional aide and healthcare lobbyist.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton/Files

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Janna Ryan, thrust onto the national stage this weekend when her congressman husband, Paul Ryan, was named the Republican vice presidential choice, strikes an appealing image as a stay-at-home mom raising three young children in Wisconsin.

But the 43-year-old has been a Washington operative herself, hailing from a well-connected family and forging an early professional career as a congressional aide and healthcare lobbyist.

Friends describe her as being able to navigate between different worlds -- from small-town Oklahoma and Wellesley College, a private women's college outside Boston that she attended, to complex policy debates in Washington.

"She is very comfortable in and around politics. She grew up in a political family, and it comes very naturally to her," said Leslie Belcher, a Washington lobbyist who worked on Capitol Hill with Janna Ryan and was later one of her bridesmaids.

During her first public test, Ryan appeared at ease on Saturday as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney introduced her husband at a tightly orchestrated event in Norfolk, Virginia, with the retired battleship USS Wisconsin as the backdrop. She beamed alongside Mitt Romney's wife, Ann Romney.

Ryan, whose last name was Little before her marriage, grew up in Madill, in southern Oklahoma. Both of her parents spent their careers as lawyers in private practice. Her mother graduated first in her class at the University of Oklahoma law school. A town in Oklahoma, Little City, is named after the family.

Her family has strong Democratic connections, and it largely identifies with the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of Democratic lawmakers known for being fiscally conservative.

Her uncle, David Boren, served as a Democratic governor of Oklahoma and later as a senator from the state. Boren's son, Dan Boren, is a member of House of Representatives and, as a Blue Dog Democrat, has often voted with Republicans.

After college Janna Ryan worked as a legislative aide to then Oklahoma Representative Bill Brewster, who was a co-founder of the Blue Dog Coalition.

LAW DEGREE

"She came from a small town, and we had big ideas of going to Washington and making a difference," said Ryan's friend Shannon Henderson, who worked on Capitol Hill with her at the time.

While in that job she worked on transportation and healthcare issues and attended George Washington University Law School at night, earning her degree in 1998.

Ryan parlayed her law degree and Hill experience into a lobbyist job, working for several years at Williams & Jensen and at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Her roster of clients included pharmaceutical and insurance clients such as Novartis, Cigna and Blue Cross/Blue Shield, according to lobbying records.

She married Paul Ryan in 2000 after the two met in Washington and moved to his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, where she now raises their three children.

A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article in 2000 said their upcoming nuptials would be "depriving Congress of one of its more eligible bachelors."

"They got married eyes wide open, knowing that they wanted to dedicate themselves to public service, and that meant that Janna wouldn't work, and Paul would dedicate himself" to working in Congress, said Jodi Bond, a vice president of the Chamber of Commerce who has been friends with the Ryans for decades.

Paul Ryan told CBS's "60 Minutes" program on Sunday that he and Janna had discussed his vice presidential candidacy at length. "It is going to change our life, but we really think that this is a moment in the country that needs leadership," he said.

While the campaign is still sorting out exactly what her role on the campaign trail might be, friends suggested she would be an asset to the Romney-Ryan ticket.

"I think she is very relatable," said Missy Edwards, a lobbyist in Washington who became friends with Ryan when they both worked on Capitol Hill together in the 1990s. "She's from a small town, (with) three young kids, smart, and focused on her family, first."

(Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Karey Wutkowski, Cynthia Osterman and Eric Beech)

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Comments (3)
sylvan wrote:
What kind of bubble-headed logic is they both wanted to do public service, which meant Janna wouldn’t work? Yes, the public thanks you for parking your well educated behind at home, raising the next generation of Randites, and not paying taxes. Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, and millions of other moms who work in public service positions, like uh, teachers, nurses, social workers, likely disagree with the stupidest quote ever. I guess the fruits of her womb are her public service. Too bad the same pedastal mentality isn’t given to working mothers.

Aug 13, 2012 8:23am EDT  --  Report as abuse
sylvan wrote:
What kind of bubble-headed logic is they both wanted to do public service, which meant Janna wouldn’t work? Yes, the public thanks you for parking your well educated behind at home, raising the next generation of Randites, and not paying taxes. Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, and millions of other moms who work in public service positions, like uh, teachers, nurses, social workers, likely disagree with the stupidest quote ever. I guess the fruits of her womb are her public service. Too bad the same pedastal mentality isn’t given to working mothers.

Aug 13, 2012 8:23am EDT  --  Report as abuse
joelrain wrote:
There’s a reason the poor are poor and the unemployed are unemployed: they are losers. Plain and simple losers. Yes, the workplace wants young workers and not those over 40 or 50 or 60 years old. If you didn’t gather your “nuts” to squirrel it away when times were good, and now you’re close to requirement, too bad. It’s a rough world but if you didn’t want to eat cat food in retirement, you should have invested better or worked harder when you could. I see a lot of bald, fat men in their age 50s and 60s complaining about “they can’t get a good job.” Well, there’s Rogaine for baldness and there’s diets for being fat so get off the couch and start doing it. In China, they don’t have retirement; heck, they don’t practically have food so if you can’t find a job, at least you can go to a foodbank here. Personally, I think that we should ship all our jobs overseas because I think all the people in their age 50s and 60s are lazy — if you wanted respect in your old age, go to Japan, or somewhere where old age is valued. Here, you are just a cost to us people under 40. A healthcare cost, a laziness cost, and a Social Security burden. My solution: if you are over 45 and unemployed, you should leave our great USA and go find a country where you can be a loser in peace and by yourself. Thank you for listening.

Aug 13, 2012 2:58pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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