Walorski killed in car accident

9:28 A.M. UPDATE

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., and two aides died in a car crash Wednesday when the vehicle they were in was struck by another, according to Elkhart County, Indiana, Sheriff’s Office.

The statement said the crash is still under investigation, but a northbound car with one occupant crossed the center line and collided with the car containing Walorski and two others.

The sheriff’s office said the others killed in Walorski’s car were Zachery Potts, 27, of Mishawaka, Indiana, and Emma Thomson, 28, of Washington, D.C. Walorski’s chief of staff said in a statement they were on her staff, and professional online profiles for Potts said he served as Walorski’s district director, while Thomson’s said she was Walorski’s communications director.

The driver of the northbound car, who also was killed, was Edith Schmucker, 56, of Nappanee, Indiana, according to the sheriff’s statement.

Walorski, 58, is the third member of the House Republican conference to die this year, after Reps. Don Young, R-Alaska, and Jim Hagedorn, R-Minn.

A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she had ordered flags to fly at half staff at the Capitol to mark Walorski’s passing.

In a statement, Pelosi said Walorski served her community as well as those suffering abroad, such as children in poverty in Romania. “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’s statement said.

Republican Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., called Walorski a “champion for the people of Indiana,” in a statement Wednesday.

“She will be remembered for her kindness, tenacity, and commitment to helping others,” Scalise said, noting that Walorski had served as a member of his whip team.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced Walorski’s death “with a heavy heart” in a statement on Twitter.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, an Indiana native, said on Twitter he was “shocked and saddened” to learn of Walorski’s death.

“Though we came from very different places politically, she was always prepared to work together where there was common ground, always decent and straightforward, and she cared deeply about her work and her constituents,” Buttigieg said.

Walorski had served in Congress since 2012, when she first won election in Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District.

In the 117th Congress, Walorski served as ranking member of the Ethics Committee, as well as a member of the Ways and Means Committee.

Ways and Means Committee ranking member Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, called Walorski “our happy Hoosier” in an appearance on “Washington Watch,” an online program of the conservative Family Research Council.

Brady emphasized the work Walorski had done to support faith-based adoption agencies and “make sure states and federal government couldn’t cancel out faith-based organizations who were merely trying to practice their faith and connect foster kids and other children.”

“She lit up every room she was in and she brought joy, passion, brilliance, to everything, and she could do everything,” Brady said.

Walorski used her post on the powerful tax-writing committee to look out for Indiana’s manufacturing sector and opposed tariffs on foreign goods that had resulted in retaliatory tariffs on American ones.

Walorski was one of more than 130 House Republicans to vote against certifying President Joe Biden’s victories in Pennsylvania and Arizona in the 2020 election following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

An ally of former President Donald Trump, she occasionally clashed with his administration over its aggressive pursuit of tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum products. She backed Trump’s effort to renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement.

She joined most members of the House in voting to override Trump’s veto of a defense policy bill in late 2020.

She served on the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues, Caucus on Youth Sports, the Defense Communities Caucus and conservative Republican Study Committee.

Walorski first ran for office in 2004 and served three terms in the state House before running for Congress in the 2nd District in 2010. She lost narrowly to then-Rep. Joe Donnelly.

Following congressional redistricting, she ran again in 2012 and won. She is survived by her husband, Dean Swihart.

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ORIGINAL STORY

NAPPANEE — Republican U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski was killed Wednesday in a car accident in her northern Indiana District, her office said.

The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office said they were called to the scene of a two-vehicle crash shortly after noon. Police said a car traveled left of the center lane and collided head-on with an SUV that Walorski was riding in, killing Walorski, 58, along with her staff members Zachery Potts, 27, district director, and Emma Thomson, 28, communications director.

Police identified the driver of the other vehicle in the crash as 56-year old Edith Schmucker of Nappanee, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Walorski has been the congresswoman representing District 2 since 2012 and served on the House Ways and Means Committee. She previously served three terms in the Indiana legislature.

Walorski was born in South Bend and lived near Elkhart. She and her husband were previously 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 her turn to politics.

Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, issued a statement saying he was devastated by Walorski’s death. “Jackie loved Hoosiers and devoted her life to fighting for them. 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. Please join me in praying for their families in this difficult time.”

State Sen. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend, said “I am shaken and deeply sorry to hear about the passing of Representative Walorski, Zachery Potts and Emma Thomson. Rep. Walorski has represented our community for a decade, and was always fiercely dedicated to her constituents and the betterment of Indiana. My thoughts and condolences are with her loved ones as well as the loved ones of Mr. Potts and Ms. Thomson.”