Indiana GOP Representative Jackie Walorski was killed in a car crash Wednesday about 12:32 p.m. near Nappanee, a city south of South Bend.
Two other occupants in Walorski’s vehicle, heading southbound, were identified as Zachery Potts, 27, Mishawaka, and Emma Thomson, 28, of Washington, D.C. Both worked for Walorski’s office. The driver of the other vehicle, 56-year-old Edith Schmucker of Nappanee, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Goshen News.
Walorski, a South Bend native, was 58. She served in the U.S. House of Representatives starting in 2013, and before that spent five years in the Indiana House.
The reactions poured in Wednesday afternoon:
- Purdue University President and former Gov. Mitch Daniels said “there could not be worse news.”
“I’m heartsick at this tragedy. Jackie Walorski was a great public servant, a brave and constant ally for change during all my years in elected office, and a great representative of her district at both the state and national levels. I can’t say how much I’ll miss her.”
- Indiana Sen. Todd Young released a statement expressing his condolences for Walorski, Thomson and Potts.
“I’m truly devastated. 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,” Young said. “All of Indiana mourns her passing.”
- Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch said she was “shocked and heartbroken,” when she learned about Walorski’s death.
“Jackie and I served together in the Indiana House of Representatives, and she was a fighter for her constituents and conservative Hoosier values,” Crouch said in a statement. “My heart goes out to her husband, Dean, and the rest of her family and friends. She will be deeply missed.”
- House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, also recalled his memories of working with Walorski in the Statehouse.
“Working in politics, you develop a tight bond with the people you work with, and the loss of three dedicated Hoosiers is insurmountable. Congresswoman Walorski and I served in the Indiana House of Representatives with the shared values of creating a better state,” GiaQuinta said. “May the memories of their legacies and work be a blessing to those who loved them and the people they served.”
- Third District Republican Congressman Jim Banks said his heart is broken for Walorski’s husband and family.
“Jackie was a true public servant –selfless, humble, and compassionate. She was a devout Christian, a passionate advocate for life, and a leader among Hoosier representatives. Everything Jackie did was to serve others,” he said in a statement. “From my first day in Congress, Jackie showed me kindness and grace. She had a heart of gold, and I will miss her dearly. Please join Amanda and I in praying for Jackie’s loved ones and the friends and family of her two staff members who also lost their lives in this tragic accident.”
- House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), called Walorski a “dear friend,” in a statement he shared.
“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.”
- National Right to Life recognized Walorski’s commitment to their cause, saying she had a 100% voting record with the group.
“We mourn the loss of Representative Jackie Walorski who supported protections for the most vulnerable among us,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. “The pro-life movement is deeply indebted to Congresswoman Walorski for her service on behalf of the unborn.”
Under Indiana law, Gov. Eric Holcomb must call a special election to fill the vacancy for the remainder of Walorski’s term. Walorski was up for election in November and Holcomb could wait until that planned election. This happened when former Third District Congressman Mark Souder resigned in May 2010.
Walorski began her career in 1985 as a reporter at South Bend’s WSBT-TV.
She went on to lead the St. Joseph County Humane Society before taking on a trio of jobs at Ancilla College in Donaldson, Indiana; the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce and Indiana University South Bend throughout the 1990s.
Walorski moved to Romania in 2000, where she engaged in Christian missionary work and founded Impact International, a foundation providing medical supplies to low-income children.
By 2004, Walorski was back stateside, and running for a seat in Indiana’s House of Representatives. She won three two-year terms in a row, serving District 2 from 2005–2010. During that time, she made headlines for sponsoring the contentious voter identification law that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 2008, and that helped other states implement similar laws.
Walorski ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 before snagging the seat in 2012. At the time of her death, she was the ranking member on the Ethics Committee and the Ways and Means Committtee’s Worker and Family Support subcommittee. She also held an assignment to the Oversight subcommittee.