Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana and Two of Her Staff Members Were Killed in a Head-on Car Crash!
Republican U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski was killed Wednesday in a car crash in her northern Indiana district along with two members of her congressional staff and another person, police said.
The crash happened about 12:30 p.m. when a car crossed the center line on a state highway and collided head-on with the SUV Walorski was riding in, the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office said. Three people in the SUV, including Walorski, 58, were killed, as was a woman driving the other car, authorities said.
Walorski was first chosen to represent Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District in 2012. He was on the House Ways and Means Committee. She was in the state legislature for six years in the past.
“She has returned home to be with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers,” Walorski’s chief of staff Tim Cummings said in a statement.
Walorski and her husband, Dean Swihart, were previously Christian missionaries in Romania, where they established a foundation that provided food and medical supplies to impoverished children. She worked as a television news reporter in South Bend before turning to politics.
According to the sheriff’s office, the crash also killed Zachery Potts, 27, of Mishawaka, Indiana, Emma Thomson, 28, of Washington, D.C., and Edith Schmucker, 56, of Nappanee, Indiana.
Cummings confirmed that Potts and Thomson worked for Walorski in the House of Representatives. Thomson was in charge of Walorski’s communications, and Potts was in charge of her district and the Republican chairman for St. Joseph County in northern Indiana.
The sheriff’s office says that Schmucker was in the other car. The crash happened in a rural area near the town of Wakarusa. The cause of the crash is still being looked into.
Walorski was seeking reelection this year to a sixth term in the solidly Republican district.
She worked on agriculture and food policy in Congress, and she often did so with people from the other party. As co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus, she worked with Democrats to introduce a bill that would bring back a White House event on food insecurity from the Nixon administration.
President Joe Biden pointed to that work in a statement crediting Walorski for years of public service.
“We may have represented different parties and disagreed on many issues, but she was respected by members of both parties for her work,” Biden said. “My team and I appreciated her partnership as we plan for a historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health this fall that will be marked by her deep care for the needs of rural America.”
Indiana Republican U.S. Sen. Todd Young said he was devastated by Walorski’s death.
“Jackie loved Hoosiers and devoted her life to fighting for them,” Young said in a statement. “I’ll never forget her spirit, her positive attitude, and most importantly her friendship. All of Indiana mourns her passing, along with the tragic deaths of her staff Emma Thomson and Zach Potts.”
Walorski was a reliable Republican vote in Congress. After the Capitol uprising, he voted against giving Biden the electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania.
As a member of the Indiana House, Walorski pushed for laws against abortion and fought against plans to expand gambling. The conservative tea party movement liked her a lot.
In 2010, Walorski lost a close race for Congress to the Democrat Joe Donnelly. In 2012, when Donnelly ran for the Senate and won, Walorski won the seat by a small margin. Since then, she had been re-elected with little trouble.
House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called Walorski a “no-nonsense, straight shooter.”
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Walorski “lived a life of service.”
“She passionately brought the voices of her north Indiana constituents to the Congress, and she was admired by colleagues on both sides of the aisle for her personal kindness,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Pelosi ordered the flags at the U.S. Capitol to be flown at half-staff in Walorski’s honor. The White House said its flags would be lowered Wednesday and Thursday, and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a similar flag directive for the state.
“At every level of public service Jackie was known to be a positive force of nature, a patriot, and a relentless policymaker with an unwavering loyalty to her constituents,” Holcomb, a Republican, said.
Annie Kuster, a Democrat from New Hampshire, said that she and Walorski became friends after both of their husbands liked jazz music. Both of them had just been elected to Congress at the end of 2012.
“I was proud to work with her on a variety of critical issues, including legislation to address the addiction crisis, end sexual violence, and help military sexual assault survivors access the care they need,” Kuster said.
In response to Walorski’s death, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita also made a statement.
“Jackie Walorski was a strong woman who stuck to her beliefs, cared for her family, and did good work for the people of Indiana. When we were in Congress and on the campaign trail together, I have a lot of great memories and stories. She was smart, beautiful, and funny, among other things. Rokita said, “She will be missed.” “We also feel bad for the families of Zach Potts and Emma Thomson, who both died in the same terrible accident. All over Indiana, people are sad about the loss of these public servants.
Rep. Frank J. Mrvan, D-Highland, said the following after Reps. Jackie Walorski, Emma Thomson, and Zachery Potts died.
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the sudden passing of my Indiana colleague and Congressional-district neighbor Rep. Jackie Walorski,” Mran said. “I am grateful for our all too brief shared time together in the U.S. House of Representatives and appreciate her consistent friendship, an example of public service, and openness to conversation. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends during this difficult time, as well as with the loved ones of her staff member Emma Thomson and St. Joseph County Republican Chair Zachery Potts.”