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Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's running mate, has strong Oklahoma ties

Ryan married into an Oklahoma family whose roots precede statehood, and he tries to catch catfish with his bare hands on some of his visits to the southern part of the state
by Chris Casteel Modified: August 13, 2012 at 4:48 pm •  Published: August 11, 2012

Rep. Paul Ryan may be best known here as a budget wonk, but he has a hobby probably few know about — catching catfish in Oklahoma with his bare hands. And his dogs are named Boomer and Sooner.

The Wisconsin Republican, now the running mate for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, has made frequent trips to Oklahoma for more than a decade, since marrying Madill native Janna Little.

He told Oklahoma business leaders in Washington last fall that he goes to the state every holiday. And though two Oklahomans serve on the House Budget Committee that he leads, Ryan proudly noted that he was the only one of the three that had been “noodling.”

Ryan married into an Oklahoma family whose roots precede statehood and whose members are very familiar with politics.

Janna Little Ryan, a former tax attorney who married Ryan in Oklahoma City in 2000, worked in the early 1990s on the Capitol Hill staff of former Rep. Bill Brewster, a Democrat who represented the Marshall County town of Madill, where her parents lived. Before that, she was an intern in the office of former U.S. Sen. David Boren.

She is the daughter of attorney and businessman Dan Little, of Madill, and the late Prudence Little, who was an attorney active in a wide range of civic and educational causes.

Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, is her first cousin.

“Janna and I grew up together, and I couldn't be more proud of my cousin,” Boren said Saturday. “Like my late mother after whom she is named, Janna is a wonderful parent to their children and will be Paul's strongest supporter on the campaign trail.”

Janna Ryan Little's grandfather, Reuel W. Little, was born in the town of Kingston when Oklahoma was still Indian Territory. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma and the OU Law School and started a law firm in Madill, where Dan Little still works.

In 1967, Reuel W. Little helped form a third political party in Oklahoma to help George Wallace, a former Alabama governor, get on the presidential ballot in the state. Little was a presidential elector for the American Party in 1968 when Wallace got 20 percent of the vote in Oklahoma.

Reuel W. Little ran for governor in Oklahoma in 1970 as an American Party candidate but got less than 4 percent of the vote. Four years later, Reuel Little's son-in-law, David Boren, won the governor's seat.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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