MADILL, Okla. — Like her husband, Janna Ryan, the wife of Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, is a Washington veteran after years working as a legislative staffer, attorney and lobbyist. Now a stay-at-home mom, she comes from a family rooted deep in Oklahoma politics – of the Democratic sort.

In the days since Mitt Romney introduced her husband as his running mate, the woman who grew up Janna Christine Little also has been thrust into the spotlight. She beamed Saturday in Norfolk, Va., and accepted a kiss on the cheek from Ryan as Romney made his choice official. And she stood, with her hand on her husband's chest, a night later during a homecoming rally in Wisconsin.

While he headed out on the campaign trail, she took the kids – their daughter, Liza, 10, and sons Charles, 8, and Sam, 7 – camping in Colorado, the same vacation he had planned to attend before being tapped to serve as Romney's running mate.

In Lakewood, Colo., on Tuesday, Ryan told more than 2,000 supporters that he and his wife taught their children last summer how to cook on the campfire and make s'mores. Said Ryan: "Janna and I put them to bed in the tent. We stayed up late and we talked about our country. And there's nothing like the stars and the skies of the Colorado Rockies at night."

His wife knows something about living in a place where the skies are big and filled with stars. Her path to Washington – and, possibly, to the White House – began in the small southern Oklahoma town of Madill, where her family is an institution.

"It's a classic entrepreneurial family and one that has given back a great deal to the community," said Republican Rep. Tom Cole, a family friend whose district includes Madill.

Janna Ryan, 43, is a cousin of Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Boren and a niece of former Gov. and U.S. Sen. David Boren. Her grandfather, the late Reuel Little, a longtime farmer and rancher, won less than 4 percent of the vote as a third-party candidate for governor in 1970. His 1993 obituary in the newspaper The Oklahoman said he and a group began planning the party's formation in 1967 to help George Wallace's presidential bid. The four-term Alabama governor and segregationist was a Democrat but ran in 1968 as the American Independent Party candidate.

Dan Little, Janna's father and an attorney, still works at the law firm Reuel Little started in 1927; he also is chairman of the Oklahoma School of Mathematics and Sciences Board of Trustees and a former member of the University of Oklahoma board. Her mother, the late Prudence Little, was one of the first members of the state's ethics commission, as well as a former chairman of the Oklahoma University Foundation.

Says Lynn Windel, a law partner of Dan Little's and a family friend, of Mrs. Ryan: "She basically has come from a politically minded family, so it was easy for her to understand politics."

Mrs. Ryan caught the political bug early, working as an intern for David Boren. He calls her "one of the best interns I ever had in my office."

Boren, now the president of the University of Oklahoma, is effusive in his praise: "She is highly intelligent and a hard worker. More recently she has put all of her energy into being a wonderful mother and wife. Having known her all of her life, I have great admiration and affection for her."

By the early 1990s, she was in Washington where she would spend six years in Democratic Rep. Bill Brewster's office, focusing on health care issues and also earning her law degree at night. Brewster praised her as "always very dependable, conscientious, and well prepared for constituent and committee meetings."

It was in that town that she would meet her future husband.

"I wouldn't call Janna a politico, but she is very natural in and around politics," said Leslie Belcher, who worked in Brewster's office with Janna Ryan and was a bridesmaid at her wedding. "That being said, I can put Janna at the Sand Bass festival in Marshall County and she's natural there, too."

"There" is part of a region that some call "Little Dixie." Registered Democrats make up two-thirds of the registered voters in Marshall County, where Madill is located, but the county went easily to Republican John McCain in the 2008 election. President Barack Obama did not win a single county in the state that year.

The town's mayor, Kevin Epplen, is a registered Democrat who can't remember the last time he voted for one. Epplen says Paul Ryan's name on the ticket makes it more likely that he'll vote for Romney in November. "Honestly, I'd rather vote for (Paul Ryan) as president than vice president," he said.

This region's more moderate – some could say even conservative – tendencies may help explain why the Ryans' union in 2000 in an Oklahoma City church caused little heartburn for what had been a traditionally Democratic family. (Dan Little, Janna's father, switched his voter registration from Democrat to Republican last year.)

Since then, Paul Ryan has been a familiar figure in the region and regularly goes to his wife's hometown for hunting trips.

"People there love him," says Cole, who remembers unexpectedly seeing the Wisconsin congressman at an event in the area. Cole said he'll sometimes even pass along Madill constituents' concerns. "He's introduced me to people in my district that I otherwise might not have known."

Friends say they don't know if Janna Ryan ever considered herself a Democrat, but they note that she's worked for and comes from a line of "Blue Dog" Democrats who have often split from the national party.

"I think she would have gotten more hell from her friends if she married a Democrat," Belcher said.


Andrew DeMillo can be reached at


Associated Press writers Kasie Hunt in Norfolk, Va., and Steve Peoples in Lakewood, Colo., contributed to this report.

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    "Throughout his life, Mitt Romney has made great decisions, and choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate is a truly inspired choice. I got to know Paul during my Senate campaign when he endorsed me early on when I was still considered a long shot. Paul Ryan is a courageous reformer who understands our nation's challenges, has proposed bold policy solutions to solve them, and has shown the courage to stand up to President Obama and other Washington politicians trying to tear him down. "The Romney-Ryan ticket is going to win in November because it offers the American people visionary leadership to recapture the free enterprise spirit that has empowered countless Americans to build businesses from scratch and live the American dream. I'm excited about the visionary change a Romney-Ryan team will bring to Washington, and I look forward to campaigning

  • Rob Portman

    <blockquote> "Mitt Romney has made a great choice in Paul Ryan. He is an accomplished public servant and a leading voice on the most pressing issues facing our country. Paul is one of my best friends in Congress and someone I have worked closely with as a former colleague on the House Ways & Means Committee. "Jane and I wish Paul and Janna and their kids the very best. As the Chairman of the Romney campaign in Ohio, I look forward to working with Paul to ensure that the Romney-Ryan ticket carries Ohio and is victorious in November. Most importantly, as a member of the Senate, I look forward to working closely with a Romney-Ryan Administration to restore fiscal sanity and enact pro-growth policies to create jobs."</blockquote>

  • Obama for American Campaign Manager Jim Messina

    <blockquote>"In naming Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has chosen a leader of the House Republicans who shares his commitment to the flawed theory that new budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy, while placing greater burdens on the middle class and seniors, will somehow deliver a stronger economy. The architect of the radical Republican House budget, Ryan, like Romney, proposed an additional $250,000 tax cut for millionaires, and deep cuts in education from Head Start to college aid. His plan also would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system, shifting thousands of dollars in health care costs to seniors. As a member of Congress, Ryan rubber-stamped the reckless Bush economic policies that exploded our deficit and crashed our economy. Now the Romney-Ryan ticket would take us back by repeating the same, catastrophic mistakes."</blockquote>

  • Michelle Malkin

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    The Progressive Change Campaign Committee issued the following statement: <blockquote>"Paul Ryan is a right-wing extremist who wants to end Medicare. This is a major unforced error by Mitt Romney. It gives President Obama and Democrats a chance to draw a clear contrast in 2012 by promising not to cut one penny from Medicare or Social Security benefits. If Democrats win in a landslide, this was the game changer." -- Adam Green, co-founder, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a 1 million member grassroots organization</blockquote>

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    The national pro-life organization released the following statement: <blockquote>"By selecting Congressman Ryan as his vice presidential running mate, Governor Romney demonstrates his commitment to protecting American women and unborn children," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA List. "A longtime pro-life advocate and a strong fiscal conservative, Congressman Ryan has insisted that there can be no 'truce' when it comes to advancing the rights of the unborn and achieving fiscal responsibility. He has a pristine pro-life voting record and will be an asset to Governor Romney's campaign. "Pro-life voters are a key demographic and help secure victory in critical elections," continued Dannenfelser. "The addition of a second strong pro-life leader to the ticket energizes the pro-life base - we are thrilled with this pick."</blockquote>

  • GOProud

    <blockquote>"The selection of Paul Ryan is a bold and inspired pick," said Jimmy LaSalvia, Executive Director of GOProud. "Paul Ryan has been the architect of policies that would benefit all Americans, especially gay Americans." "Paul Ryan is one of the few political leaders anywhere in the country willing to tell the American people the truth about the unprecedented budget crisis we are facing, and - more importantly - willing to put forward bold plans to put this country back on the road to fiscal solvency," continued LaSalvia.</blockquote>

  • Log Cabin Republicans

    <blockquote>"Congressman Paul Ryan is a strong choice for vice president, and his addition to the GOP ticket will help Republican candidates up and down the ballot," said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director. "As chairman of the House Budget Committee and author of the Republican "path to prosperity" that provided the blueprint for serious spending cuts in this Congress, nobody is more qualified to articulate a conservative economic vision to restore the American economy and stimulate job creation. </blockquote>

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    <blockquote>"Just like Sen. John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin and George H.W. Bush's selection of Dan Quayle, Mitt Romney has been cowed by the right wing into choosing an extreme vice presidential nominee who will alienate moderate voters. It's now clearer than ever that as president, Mitt Romney would end Medicare as we know it, and will raise taxes on middle class families by more than $2,000in order to slash taxes on the wealthiest Americans. While there is a lot that can be said about Paul Ryan's extreme views, more important is what this choice says about Mitt Romney: that he is unwilling or unable to stand up to the far-right of his party and select a vice-presidential candidate that is both able to be president on day one and capable of governing by reaching across the aisle."</blockquote>

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    <blockquote>"If there were ever any doubt that Mitt Romney is not on the side of working people, today's choice of Rep. Paul Ryan as a running mate makes it crystal clear. With this choice, Romney has shown the American people that he believes Rep. Ryan's extremist, irresponsible and anti-worker agenda is what's right for our country. "Rep. Ryan has made a name for himself by fighting in the halls of Congress for tax giveaways for the wealthy and big corporations while proposing to gut vital services like Medicare and education, and eliminating any sense of retirement security for working families. His no-holds barred record of attacking seniors, children, and working men and women is frightening for the 99 percent of Americans who are not rich -- but for Mitt Romney it was a calling card to choose him as a running mate."

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    <blockquote>"Americans deserve new ideas for how we can reduce the debt and protect our seniors and the middle class. Just one year ago, Western New York voters rejected the Ryan-Collins policies that would end Medicare as we know it and hurt middle class families while giving more tax cuts to the rich. Our country needs to move forward, not re-hash failed ideas. Given Chris Collins' ongoing support for tax cuts for the rich that add nearly $1 trillion to the deficit and his willingness to send his business to China to line his pockets, it is clear my opponent is going to continue to pursue policies and priorities that have already been rejected."</blockquote>

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    <blockquote>"Now that Paul Ryan's personal ambition has clearly trumped his interest in the First District, I have no doubt he'll find himself out of a job come November. Once Wisconsinites and voters across our country learn the truth about Ryan's radical plot to end Medicare as we know it, de-fund women's health care, and preserve tax breaks for millionaires, they'll vote against him not just once, but twice. In the coming weeks, our campaign will work with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to continue getting the word out on Ryan's indefensible record, and building momentum to ensure victory on Election Day."</blockquote>

  • Scott Walker

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