House Speaker Paul Ryan announced at a press conference Wednesday morning he will not run for reelection in November, ending a 20-year career in Congress upon fulfillment of his current term.
Ryan reflected on his initial reluctance to accept the job of Speaker of the House, which he now considers one of the two greatest honors of his life. The first — his role as a husband and father of three teenagers — being the reason for his retirement.
“What I realize is if I’m here for one more term, my kids will only have ever known me as a weekend dad,” Ryan said during a press conference. “I just can’t let that happen, so I will be setting new priorities in my life, but I will also be leaving incredibly proud of what we have accomplished.”
Ryan lauded the progress he believes Congress has made during his time as Speaker, citing major tax code reform and military rebuilding as two of the biggest achievements.
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Immediately, various Wisconsin Republican officials like Gov. Scott Walker, Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., released statements thanking Ryan for his work over the past two decades and commending his character.
“When I met Paul Ryan in 1998 during his first run for Congress, it was obvious he was someone of incredible talent and amazing ability,” Vos wrote in a statement. “Now 20 years later, his record and accomplishments speak for themselves.”
Walker, a personal friend of both Ryan and his wife, Janna Ryan, thanked them on behalf of the more than five and a half million residents of Wisconsin for their dedicated work. Ryan leaves behind an extensive legacy as Speaker, but his January retirement will by no means be the end of his career, Walker said in a statement.
Looking to the November election, Chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin Brad Courtney expressed confidence in the party’s ability to elect another Republican individual who will fill Ryan’s shoes.
“Wisconsin Republicans are committed to keeping this Congressional seat and I am confident that our eventual nominee will uphold Paul Ryan’s legacy of principled, conservative leadership,” Courtney said in a statement.
Though several Republican statements emphasized similar ideas of appreciation for Ryan’s service and determination to keep his seat, Democrats on the other side of the aisle took a different approach.
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, pointed to Ryan’s withdrawal from the upcoming election as an opportunity rally support for liberal candidates and influence constituents to vote against the GOP this November. An email from Pocan Headquarters emphasized the need to show other Republican officials that Democrats are prepared to push them out of office.
University of Wisconsin political science professor David Canon believes Ryan’s absence in the race for his First District seat will only increase competition, while it could also indicate impending failure for the Republican Party.
“Nationally, too, clearly this already has been called a potential ‘Blue Wave’ election,” Canon said. “With Paul Ryan’s retirement, that’s yet another signal that this will be a good year for the Democrats.”
Despite Ryan’s emphasis on refocusing his life on his family, Canon is confident this is not the end for Ryan, who still has presidential ambitions and could seek Wisconsin governorship, Canon said.
Ryan closed his speech by thanking the Wisconsinites who he has represented in Washington D.C. for the past two decades, and to the colleagues who gave him the opportunity to serve as Speaker.
“It’s been a wild ride, but it’s been a journey well worth taking to be able to do my part in strengthening the American idea,” Ryan said. “That pursuit is never-ending, much work remains, but I’d like to think I have done my part — my little part — in history to set us on a better course. Thank you.”