Paul Ryan’s wife Janna: ‘It will be hard to turn the page’
JANESVILLE — One person in Paul Ryan’s hometown of Janesville knows better than anyone why he decided to retire after 20 years in Congress.
“It will be hard to turn the page,” Ryan’s wife, Janna Ryan, said Wednesday during a break from a downtown shopping trip. “I wouldn’t say a weight has been lifted, but it’s a chapter I’m looking forward to.”
A tearful Janna Ryan said she planned to stop by his office and hug everyone who worked there as the political fallout from her husband’s decision reverberated across his hometown, state and the country.
Ryan has lived his entire life in Janesville, other than four years when he went to college in Ohio, and still lives there with his wife and three children. While accolades from fellow Republicans in Wisconsin and across the country poured in for Ryan, Democrats in Janesville — a union town that was not Ryan’s stronghold — were celebrating.
Jacalyn Gooch, 63, a Democrat, criticized Ryan for aligning himself with President Donald Trump. She said she was upset with Ryan because he opposed Trump before he was elected president and then began working with him after he took office.
“I can’t believe he stayed on as speaker under Trump,” she said.
Others praised Ryan and said they appreciated his wanting to spend more time with his family.
Jill Gile, a 61-year-old retired logistics coordinator from Janesville who describes herself as a swing voter, said she was pleased with Ryan’s work. And she said she understands why he’s stepping down.
“I wouldn’t blame him. It’s got to be hard running back and forth (from Washington) all the time. It’s got to be hard for his kids,” Gile said.
Jacki Dobson, a longtime Janesville resident who has voted for Ryan for many years, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Washington’s sharp political divisions may have contributed to Ryan’s decision.
“I think he did a good job. I think he’s being forced to vote for things he didn’t want to vote for,” Dobson said. “Maybe he’s decided it’s time to move on.”
Barb Wise, a 67-year-old retired teacher who described herself as a Democrat, said she’s glad to see Ryan go. She contends that Ryan lost touch with his southern Wisconsin district since he became speaker and criticized him for scaling back former President Barack Obama’s health care reforms and spearheading the federal tax law overhaul.
“He got too important and he doesn’t want to face the people,” Wise said.
Scott Leeder, 64, described himself as a right-leaning independent and only gave Ryan average marks for his job in Congress.
He faulted Ryan for adding to the national debt with the tax overhaul. Ryan’s decision to work with Trump after opposing him during the 2016 campaign raised questions about his convictions, Leeder said.
“He went with whichever way the wind blew,” Leeder said.
Janna Ryan said she felt both happy and bittersweet about her husband’s decision. She said there was a lot of trepidation in their family when Ryan decided to take the speaker’s job in 2015, and Ryan has said his desire to spend more time with his family drove his decision to retire.
“Being speaker is a whole different level. It takes a full-time job and makes it as much of a job as a lifestyle,” Janna Ryan said. “He’s given his all.”