“I live in Janesville, Wisconsin,” Paul Ryan told CNN in 2015. “I just work here. I don’t live here.” As a member of Congress, Ryan famously slept in his office and commuted to Janesville on weekends. When Republicans were begging him to become Speaker of the House, Tim Alberta reports in his book American Carnage, he made spending weekends in Janesville a precondition of taking the job:
Ryan also carried tremendous guilt about living away from his wife and three young children, not to mention his brother and wife and their kids, who lived a few blocks away, on top of a bevy of cousins and family friends in Janesville. The town had always been his refuge; he already spent Mondays through Fridays in Washington and had no appetite for jet-setting the country in his spare time, giving speeches and shaking down donors.
Ryan was bowhunting near Janesville, Alberta writes, when Cardinal Timothy Dolan called to urge him to serve as Speaker. Bowhunting was a prominently real-American way he stayed connected to the real-American town, Amy Goldstein reported for the Washington Post after Ryan took the job:
He has been stopping in for years at Hunt ’n Gear, along the Milton Avenue commercial strip that runs north from downtown. He gets his Mathews bow tuned up for hunting season. He has outfitted his daughter, Liza, and his older son, Charlie, with youth bows. A few weeks ago, he picked up a gift for friends with whom he had been camping, getting a shirt by a bow manufacturer called Hoyt for a kid named Hoyt.
Other non-bow-related things Ryan did in Janesville, according to Goldstein: Order Italian takeout, attend Mass, feast on prime rib at a supper club called the Buckhorn. Even before he left Congress, Alberta reported he was “tiring of D.C.” and the microdramas of leadership and “wants desperately to live at home” with his kids. “He’ll spend a lot more time in his tree stand,” one of his constituents told Roll Call about what might happen if the rumors that he planned to leave DC prove true.
Turns out lots of places have tree stands: Ryan and his family are moving back to the very DC area “he was always giddy to leave,” Natasha Korecki and Jake Sherman reported Tuesday. The Ryans will rent a house in Maryland, which will allow the family to be closer to the family of his wife, Janna Ryan. Janna Ryan went to GW for law school, worked on the Hill, and was a K Street lawyer and lobbyist; Paul Ryan “occasionally stays with extended family in Bethesda, Md., when his wife and three children are in town,” the New York Times reported in 2015, before returning its attention to the cot in his office.
Perhaps it was a bit much for Ryan to stay away from this region, even if it’s anchored by a city whose ability to govern itself he looked down upon. After all, he moved here in his early 20s and was famously a waiter at Tortilla Coast before working his way into the think tank world, the Hill, that seat in Congress, a spot on the 2012 Republican ticket, and the Speaker gig. All of those jobs must have been murder for someone who hates being here so much! Why not just move the fam here and not miss any time with them?
Ryan will keep his house in Janesville, Korecki and Sherman report, and his foundation will be headquartered there, too. How much will that matter to people in Janesville? I called Ryan’s fellow Janesville native Randy “IronStache” Bryce, who planned to run against Ryan in 2018 before Ryan decided to retire. (Bryce lost to Bryan Steil that November.) “Every once in a while there was a sighting, and it was like a breaking news story when somebody saw him,” Bryce says. And as to the reports he’s moving away? “It doesn’t matter. He wasn’t here before,” Bryce says. “It’s really a non-story as far as anyone around here is concerned.”