Los Angeles Times

House Republican from Indiana, 2 aides killed in crash

The other car’s driver, who also died, crossed the center line and hit SUV carrying them.


WASHINGTON — 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, who served on the House Ways and Means

Committee, was first elected to represent Indiana’s 2nd Congressio­nal District in 2012. She previously served six years in the state’s Legislatur­e.

“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.

Also killed in the crash were Zachery Potts, 27, of Mishawaka, Ind.; Emma Thomson, 28, of Washington, D.C.; and Edith Schmucker, 56, of Nappanee, Ind., the sheriff ’s office said.

Cummings confirmed that Potts and Thompson were members of Walorski’s congressio­nal staff. Thompson was Walorski’s communicat­ions director; Potts was her district director and the Republican chairman for northern Indiana’s St. Joseph County.

Schmucker was driving the other car, according to the sheriff’s office. The crash, which occurred in a rural area near the town of Wakarusa, is still under investigat­ion.

Walorski was seeking reelection this year to a sixth term in the solidly Republican district. She was active on agricultur­e and food policy in Congress, often working across the aisle on those issues. A co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus, she introduced legislatio­n with Democrats to bring back a Nixon-era White House event on food insecurity.

President 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,

including rejecting the Arizona and Pennsylvan­ia electoral votes for Biden following the Capitol insurrecti­on.

As a member of the Indiana House, Walorski pushed antiaborti­on legislatio­n and opposed gambling expansion proposals. She became a favorite of the conservati­ve tea party movement.

Walorski lost a close 2010 congressio­nal race to Democrat Joe Donnelly before narrowly winning the seat in 2012 as Donnelly made a successful run for the Senate. She had easily won her reelection campaigns since then.

House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called her 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 f lags would be lowered Wednesday and Thursday, and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a similar flag directive for the state.

Democratic Rep. Ann McLane Kuster of New Hampshire said she and Walorski bonded as newly elected members of Congress in late 2012 over their husbands’ shared love of jazz music and became friends.

“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.

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