Oklahoma native Janna Little Ryan can handle national spotlight, Gov. Mary Fallin says

August 29, 2012


By Chris Casteel

When Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan took the stage here Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention, he wasn't the only one thrust into a national spotlight.

Ryan's wife, Oklahoma native Janna Little Ryan, and their three children will also find themselves garnering far more attention than they have experienced as the family of a Wisconsin congressman.

“It's always challenging when you're the spouse of a very, very public figure, and this will certainly elevate her level of exposure to the public as far as people just wanting to know who she is and what's she about,” Gov. Mary Fallin said here in an interview.

Fallin and others who know the Ryans said Janna Ryan can handle the transition.

“I think she'll do very well,” the governor said.

Though Janna Ryan comes from a southern Oklahoma family that has long been involved in politics and has been married to Ryan since 2000, she has by most accounts been able to live a quiet life in her husband's home in Janesville, Wis.

That is the case for many congressional spouses of lawmakers, though it's not public life doesn't sometimes intrude.

Cindy Lankford, who is married to Rep. James Lankford, an Oklahoma City Republican, said, “I can make it through Walmart at times without being recognized.”

And Ellen Cole, wife of Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said, “I really don't have any problem with it. I feel pretty anonymous most of the time.”

The families of all of Oklahoma's senators and House members have, as have Janna Little Ryan and her children, stayed back in the home state. When Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, was first elected to the House in 1994, his wife, Lynda, said she wanted to stay in Oklahoma and raise the couple's kids there.

And, she said, “We have cattle, and someone has to stay there and feed them and keep them from getting out.”

Lucas said here this week that his wife has been able to maintain her own life as a cattle ranch operator and serve in the church and on local boards while tending to the family during Lucas' weeks in Washington.