Janesville residents unsure about Paul Ryan for Speaker: “Nobody wants that job, for good reason”

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JANESVILLE -- U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's colleagues in Congress want him to run for Speaker of the House, but his neighbors back home in Janesville aren't so sure.

The blue-collar city of 63,000 residents has voted against its hometown congressman in the two most recent elections. Yet many people here say they respect Ryan and don't want him to seek a demanding job of speaker.

"Nobody wants that job, for a very good reason, and with his small children, it`s going to take too much time away from his kids," Tina Breeze Wahlers, a Janesville resident, said as she left a downtown cafe during Monday's lunch hour.

Ryan has not ruled out running for speaker after spending more than a week at home in Janesville during a congressional recess.

Paul Ryan

Ryan, a father of three, has said he doesn't want the job because of the travel and fundraising demands. Yet many high profile Republicans have said he's the best man to lead a fractured House GOP conference.

House Republicans will meet as Congress returns to Washington on Tuesday. Ryan "looks forward to listening to and speaking with his colleagues this week," a spokesman said.

Gov. Scott Walker said that his longtime ally is "torn" about the decision. Ryan could redefine the speaker's role if he seeks it, Walker said.

"Consider it not in the way it's historically been done. Change the terms," Walker said he told Ryan. "If they want you, why do you have to operate on the same terms as everyone else?"

Walker suggested that Ryan could delegate travel or decision-making responsibilities so that he could still return to Janesville on weekends to see his family.

"I think it's legitimate when you hear him say he does not want to be the speaker," Walker said.

Janesville has long been a union town, despite the closure of the General Motors Assembly plant here in late 2008. Its hometown congressman lives about two miles away from the shuttered GM plant.

Tim Cullen, a former Democratic state senator from Janesville, praised Ryan's efforts to keep the GM plant running and said Ryan was "clearly the best available" to be speaker.

Yet Cullen said Ryan ought to seek assurances about reduced travel and that he could return to his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means committee.

"Every politician says he's a family man, but he really is," Cullen said, noting that it would be the first time a speaker had come from Janesville.

Friends and supporters agreed that Ryan has a lot to weigh.

"If half of what is said about that thankless, dead-end job is true," John Beckord, president of the economic development group Forward Janesville, said before trailing off.

"It's hard to imagine a role Paul wouldn't be good at," he added.

No House speaker has gone on to become president since James K. Polk in 1844, a point that several Janesville residents made on Monday.

"I think that if he does this, he’s going to ruin his opportunities," Breeze Wahlers said.

"It’s going to be a no-win situation for him to take that position," said Jim Farrell, who sits on the Janesville City Council.

Many in Janesville don't see much impact for their city -- with one exception.

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan

"It only means more traffic when he`s around," Breeze Wahlers said.

Residents here would know -- they dealt with  a crush  of national media and Ryan's Secret Service detail during the 2012 presidential campaign.

"You know, the hardest part was getting back and forth to the library," said Judy Farrell of Janesville.

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan