Rep. Jackie Walorski Dies in Horrific Car Crash

Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) died in a car crash in Elkhart County, Indiana, along with three other people on Wednesday afternoon.

A car with Walorski, 58, and two other passengers was heading southbound on state Route 19 when a car heading northbound veered left and collided with the southbound car, according to a CBS affiliate in South Bend.

The occupants in the southbound vehicle were Walorski, Emma Thomson, 28, who served as the congresswoman’s communications director, and Zachery Potts, a 27-year-old aide to the congresswoman. The driver and sole occupant of the northbound vehicle was Edith Schmucker, 56. All four occupants in both vehicles were killed.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) shared a statement about the deadly crash from the congresswoman’s office.

“Dean Swihart, Jackie’s husband, was just informed by the Elkhart County Sheriff’s office that Jackie was killed in a car accident this afternoon,” the statement said. “She has returned home to be with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers. We will have no further comment at this time.”

Walorski had a varied career before being elected to Congress. She began her professional life as a television anchor for the CBS affiliate in South Bend in 1985 until 1989, when she became executive director of the Humane Society of St. Joseph County, where she served until 1991. She then worked in a variety of fundraising roles, including at the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce and Indiana University, South Bend.

Walorski moved to Romania in 2000, where she founded Impact International, which sought to provide medical supplies to impoverished children. She also conducted Christian missionary work before returning to the United States in 2004.

Walorski turned to politics and elected office that same year, running for and winning an open seat in Indiana’s House of Representatives. She made her first run for Congress in 2010 against Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly. Walorski lost narrowly, 48% to 47%, in a strong Republican year nationwide.

But Walorski was back two years later, running successfully for the northwest Indiana House seat when Donnelly successfully sought a promotion to the Senate. In the House, Walorski quickly garnered the respect of colleagues across the aisle. She was a member of the House Armed Services, Budget, and Veterans’ Affairs committees.

And since the start of the 117th Congress in January 2021, Walorski was the top Republican lawmaker on the House Ethics Committee. The sensitive post involves possibly sitting in judgment of House colleagues of both parties and is entrusted to members who command bipartisan respect.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, a native of Indiana and former congressman and governor of the state, issued a statement about Walorski and the others who died on Wednesday.

“She served Indiana in the Statehouse and the Congress with integrity and principle for nearly two decades and will be deeply missed,” Pence said. “Our prayers are with her husband Dean, her family, and the families of Zachery Potts and Emma Thomson who also perished in the crash. We’re praying God’s comfort over their families and to all who loved and admired this truly inspiring Indiana leader. God Bless Jackie Walorski.”

McCarthy later issued his own statement about Walorski, calling her “a dear friend.”

“This news is absolutely devastating. Jackie was a dear friend, trusted advisor, and the embodiment of integrity who achieved the admiration and respect of all her colleagues in the House,” McCarthy said. “She always put others first.”

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) praised the late congresswoman in a statement Wednesday.

“I am devastated and saddened to learn about the tragic passing of my dear friend Jackie Walorksi and two of her staffers. Jackie was an instrumental member of our conference, serving as a member of my deputy whip team for several years. She was a champion for the people of Indiana, and she will be remembered for her kindness, tenacity, and commitment to helping others,” Scalise said. “Jackie and her staffers died serving her constituents. They will be missed, and our nation will miss their service. My prayers are with Jackie’s loving husband Dean, her entire family, and the families of both of her staffers.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, also issued a statement mourning the death of Walorski.

“I’m shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic death of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and the other victims of this terrible crash,” he said. “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.”

Walorski won the uncontested Republican primary for Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District in May and was slated to face Democrat Paul Steury in the general election in November.

“I am devastated to learn of the passing of my good friend, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. “She was an incredible public servant for Hoosiers and leader within the Republican Party. The entire Republican National Committee is praying for her family, as well as the families of the two staff who were also tragically killed.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) ordered the flags at the U.S. Capitol to be flown at half-staff after Walorski’s death, according to Pelosi’s office.