U.S. Rep Jackie Walorski killed in Elkhart County crash
ELKHART — U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-2nd District) was killed in a car crash in Elkhart County on Wednesday, according to the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department.
According to police, Walorski was in a vehicle driving south on Indiana 19 south of Wakaursa around 12:30 p.m. when a car going north drove over the center line and collided with Walorski's vehicle head-on. Zach Potts, 27, and Emma Thomson, 28, were also in the car with Walorski at the time and were killed in the crash.
Walorski, 58, has served Indiana's 2nd district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2013.
Potts was the chairman of the St. Joseph County Republican Party. Thomson was a member of Walorski's staff. The group was returning from a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Claypool, according to media reports.
Elkhart County police are still investigating the crash. The driver of the northbound car was identified Wednesday afternoon as Edith Schmucker, 56, of Nappanee and she was pronounced dead at the scene.
“I am indeed heartbroken to hear the news of my colleague, and next-door neighbor, Jackie Walorski," said Republican U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, of St. Joseph, Michigan, who represents Michigan's Sixth Congressional District. "Of course, we were close and usually traveled on the same plane back and forth from South Bend to D.C. and back home usually sitting next to each other.
"Her Hoosier heart was never in doubt," he added, "and she led a life of service from wife, missionary, and leader in the Congress working on bipartisan issues, and as a gracious and thoughtful lady."
Mike Bellovich, a Republican who has served on the Mishawaka Common Council since 2012, credited Walorski for her work in supporting the Veterans Affairs clinic of Mishawaka when it opened in 2017.
Bellovich, who served in the Marine Corps, said he was always grateful for her work on military issues. He added that Potts, just 27, had done well to move the county Republican party forward.
"I'm truly devastated," said U.S. Sen. Todd Young, of Indiana. "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.”
National Right to Life, a prominent leader of the anti-abortion movement in the U.S., said Walorski always voted in line with their organization's beliefs. In 2017, Walorski asked the Indiana State Department of Health to reject an abortion provider's application to open a clinic in South Bend. The clinic ultimately opened in 2019.
“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.”
Prominent area Democrats have also made statements mourning her death. South Bend Mayor James Mueller and his predecessor, Pete Buttigieg, said they were deeply saddened by her death. U.S. Rep. Frank Mrvan, who represents Indiana Congressional District One just west of Walorski's region, said he is "grateful for our all too brief shared time together in the U.S. House of Representatives and appreciate her consistent friendship, example of public service, and openness to conversation."
"Serving in Congress since 2013, Jackie was a force to be reckoned with and represented our community with passion and conviction," Mueller said. "Today our community lost a dedicated public servant."
Walorski, 58, was born and raised in the Gilmer Park neighborhood just outside South Bend’s southern city limits. Her father Raymond was a South Bend firefighter who owned an appliance repair shop and her mother Martha worked as a meat cutter at a grocery store.
After attending Liberty Baptist College and graduating from Taylor University with a bachelor’s degree in communications and public administration, she spent the first four years of her career as a reporter for WSBT-TV.
From there she held leadership or fund-raising positions at the St. Joseph County Humane Society, Ancilla College, the South Bend Regional Chamber and Indiana University South Bend, before founding and operating a Christian ministry in Romania for four years with her husband, Dean Swihart. The couple live in the Jimtown area of Elkhart County.
Walorski was elected to the Indiana House in 2004, 2006 and 2008 before losing her first congressional election in 2010 to two-term incumbent Joe Donnelly. But after the Republican-controlled Indiana General Assembly redrew the sprawling 10-county district to remove Michigan City, historically home to more Democrats, and added heavily Republican areas of Elkhart and Kosciusko counties, she narrowly beat Democrat Brendan Mullen in 2012. She won by 21 percentage points in 2014, 18 points in 2016 and 14 points in 2018 but has never won St. Joseph County.
This is a developing story, check back for updates.