Ryan is latest in local line of dignitaries

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Jake Magee and Stan Milam
October 29, 2015

JANESVILLE—A native son becoming the next House Speaker has again put Janesville on the national media map.

While no other Janesville resident has achieved Paul Ryan's status as a vice presidential nominee and no other Wisconsin native has reached the role of House Speaker, the highest political office one can hold after president and vice president, the city has sent other residents to Washington.

Here are Janesville area natives who became notable politicians.


Although not from Janesville, Les Aspin of East Troy became an adopted native son with his main district office in Janesville. Aspin was elected in 1970 to the 1st Congressional District after a hard-fought primary against current Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette. The Democratic nomination was not decided until Aspin emerged with a narrow recount advantage. He defeated veteran Republican Henry Schadeberg in the 1970 general election.

Aspin went on to serve 10 consecutive terms. He rose to one of the most powerful posts in Congress, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. After his re-election in 1992, Aspin resigned his House seat to become secretary of defense in the Bill Clinton administration.

After a disastrous military operation in Somalia, Clinton fired Aspin on Feb. 3, 1994. Aspin returned to Wisconsin and was teaching at Marquette University when he died May 21, 1995, after a stroke.


Janesville baby boomers might remember Milt's Dairy Bar on the southwest corner of Randall Avenue and Racine Street. Milt Carr served up burgers and malts for years there. He also had a son who went to Washington.

Bob Carr, a Democrat, moved to Michigan and served 18 years in the House of Representatives. He ran once unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate. Carr began his political career as a rebellious newcomer. One of his first acts after being elected to the House in 1974 was to call for the resignation of House Speaker Carl Albert, a move for which he later apologized.

In 2005, Carr joined a Washington, D.C., communications law firm, DowLohnes. Today, he works as an adviser for Brookings Executive Education and an adjunct professor for George Washington University, according to his LinkedIn page.


The next Janesville resident to join Congress was Russ Feingold, an unlikely Democratic winner who took out Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Kasten in 1992.

Feingold advanced to the November 1992 general election ballot as the last man standing after a bruising Democratic primary that saw Congressman Jim Moody and businessman Joe Checota take each other out.

During his three terms in the Senate, Feingold rose to national prominence as an author of significant campaign finance reform with Republican Sen. John McCain. He was awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, and he was considered a potential presidential candidate in 2008. Feingold was defeated for re-election in 2010 by Republican Ron Johnson. He now teaches at Marquette University Law School, though he's aiming to retake his former Senate seat in 2016.


Mark Neumann entered the political spotlight as a Janesville homebuilder when he made his first run for Congress in 1992 against veteran Democrat Les Aspin. When Aspin resigned to become President Clinton's Defense secretary, Neumann ran and lost to Democrat Peter Barca in the ensuing special election in the spring of 1993.

The third time was a charm for Neumann when he defeated Barca in 1994. Neumann was re-elected in 1996 and then unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Feingold in 1998. Neumann, now of Nashotah, has since campaigned unsuccessfully for governor twice and came in third in a four-way Republican primary race for U.S. Senate.

Material from The Gazette's archives was used for this story.

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