Ryan’s RNC speech gets mixed reaction in Janesville

Some residents say Ryan made misleading claims about GM plant
Ryan’s RNC speech gets mixed reaction in Janesville

Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech in Tampa, Fla., for the Republican vice-presidential nomination is getting mixed reviews in his hometown.

The idle General Motors factory in Janesville remains a hot topic for many Rock County residents. Some former auto workers tuned in Wednesday night hear what Ryan had to say.

For those who WISC-TV spoke with Thursday, the biggest sticking points were Ryan’s comments about GM and the Janesville plant’s shutdown in April 2009.

“Paul Ryan is pointing the finger at President Obama and saying it’s his fault — it’s not. It’s Paul Ryan’s (fault). He did not do his job. He hasn’t done his job in the 14 years he’s been in office,” said Dave Vaughn, vice president of UAW Local 95.

Ryan supporter Brian Williams disagrees.

“(Ryan) didn’t blame President Obama for the headaches we’re having with the economy. He said it came from the previous administration, and that’s true whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat; that’s what happened,” Williams said.

Some Rock County residents said they were surprised by Ryan’s comments about Janesville’s GM plant.

“I was a little taken back. It made me jump out of my chair,” said David Krapf, a former worker at Lear Corporation, a GM supplier.


In February 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama visited the Janesville GM plant and made a case for retooling it.

Krapf said Ryan’s comments about the GM plant’s shutdown were misleading.

“To use it for political gain, and to lie in front of the whole nation, I just couldn’t believe it,” Krapf said.

Vaughn called Ryan and Mitt Romney’s plans for Medicare troubling.

“It’s a winding road up a mountain, and when you get to the top there’s Paul shaking your hand as you walk off a cliff. That’s his roadmap for Medicare and Social Security for us older people,” Vaughn said.

Roxann Bessel Slowey spent 24 years at GM. The mother of five and Rock County native said Ryan has neglected Janesville.

“I can honestly say I haven’t seen a whole lot that he’s actually done for Janesville or for Rock County,” Slowey said.

Williams said the congressman worked with GM officials and other lawmakers to try to save the GM plant.

“He’s not the guy that’s going to go around tooting his own horn saying, ‘I worked on it. I tried, and I’m going to continue to try,'” Williams said. 

Williams, the owner of Northland Equipment Company, said Ryan was honest about what happened in his hometown and his desire to put people back to work.

“I own a business 200 yards from here, and we miss our neighbors and we’d love to have them back. And I’d be willing to bet just about everything I have that they will be back,” Williams said.

The former auto workers WISC-TV spoke with said they hoped Ryan would have talked about bringing higher-paying jobs to Janesville. They said some companies are hiring but most of the work is part time and the pay isn’t enough to support their families.