Ryan era begins with high hopes

The new congressman hopes to land a seat on the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
WASHINGTON -- About 18 hours before Tim Ryan was to be sworn in as a U.S. congressman, some of his adoring supporters already were predicting that the House of Representatives would be a mere stepping stone on the Niles Democrat's path to greatness.
"He's on his way to be president," said Reaby McPherson of Warren, one of about 150 hard-core Ryan backers who came to Washington to help launch the congressman's new career.
Might Ryan, who will be sworn in today, run for president someday?
"I wouldn't be surprised," said Dean Thomas, one of six members of Ryan's D.C. staff.
Although they acknowledged that such speculation was a bit premature, McPherson and Thomas weren't the only ones talking dreamily of Ryan's future.
Several others at a Monday evening reception for Ryan at the National Democratic Club said the fledgling congressman might someday reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Tears of joy
Even with such high hopes among the three busloads of supporters, it was the incoming congressman who appeared to be having the most difficulty containing his excitement and pride.
"Today in the office was probably one of the most special days of my life," Ryan said, draping one arm around his fiancee, Julie Stitzel, and wiping away tears with the other. "I think that for the first time in a long time, people in Mahoning County can have hope again."
Ryan has hope, too. He reiterated that his top priority upon being sworn into Congress is to nab a seat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Committee assignments
The House Democratic leadership is working on committee assignments for new members, and the transportation committee is sure to be one of the most sought after in Congress. Seats on the powerful panel are always popular, but they are especially coveted this year because the committee will be writing a major bill that will determine transportation spending levels for the next several years.
There are at most three openings for Democrats on the committee.
"There's a lot of people going after it, so the competition is pretty stiff, but reach for the stars and see what you get," Ryan said.
'Baptism by fire'
Among Ryan's other priorities after being sworn-in on the floor of the House chamber will be setting up his Washington office and getting acclimated to life on Capitol Hill.
"We've got a little baptism by fire going on right now," Thomas, the D.C. aide, said about setting up the 17th District's office in the Cannon House Office Building. "It's hard to take in. There's so much going on."
Added Ryan: "Walking on the House floor for the first time as a member of Congress is going to be pretty exciting."
Boyish enthusiasm
Several of his supporters cited Ryan's boyish enthusiasm as one of his most attractive traits.
"He's still like a little kid," Ryan Keating, another staffer in Ryan's D.C. office, whispered affectionately.
A half-dozen of Ryan's new congressional colleagues, including several Ohio Democrats, also showed up at the reception -- featuring an open bar and Italian-food buffet -- to congratulate Ryan and wish him luck.
"If he needs any help, he has plenty of friends in the Ohio delegation," said Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland.
"This job is a tough job, just in terms of the wear and tear on the body [and] the constant travel," said Rep. Ted Strickland, a Lucasville Democrat whose 6th Congressional District encompasses most of eastern Ohio, including Columbiana County and a portion of Mahoning County.
Gesturing at the jubilant crowd, Strickland added: "It's really good to have a nucleus of support."

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