August 3, 2022

U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, three others killed in Elkhart County car accident

Article origination WVPE 88.1 Elkhart/South Bend
Republican U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski  - U.S. House Of Representatives

Republican U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski

U.S. House Of Representatives

Updated Aug. 4 at 3:30 p.m.

Indiana U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Jimtown) was killed in a car crash in Elkhart County Wednesday.

A press release from the Elkhart County Sheriff’s office says Walorski was in a car traveling north on State Route 19 just south of Wakarusa around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday when it crossed the centerline and hit another car head-on.

Two of Walorski's staffers also died in the crash — communications director Emma Thomson and district director and St. Joseph County GOP chairman Zachery Potts.

The driver of the southbound car — identified as 56-year-old Edith Schmucker of Nappanee — died at the scene. Elkhart County police originally reported the opposite — Walorksi was traveling south and was hit by a northbound driver around 12:30 p.m. — but said that preliminary information was incorrect.

Walorski had represented Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District since 2013. She succeeded Democrat Joe Donnelly, who vacated the seat to run for U.S. Senate.

Walorski was born in South Bend and grew up in the Gilmer Park area. After attending Liberty Baptist College and graduating from Taylor University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in communications and public administration, she worked as a reporter at WSBT-TV for four years.

Following that, Walorski held various positions with the St. Joseph County Humane Society, Ancilla College, the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce and Indiana University South Bend before moving to Romania in 2000 to found and run a Christian charity ministry.

She was elected to the Indiana House in 2004, and served three terms before challenging Donnelly for the 2nd congressional district seat in 2010. She lost, but announced plans to run for the seat again in 2011.

During the 2011-2013 session, the predominantly Republican Indiana legislature redrew the 2nd District, removing Michigan City and adding all of Elkhart County. This made the district more Republican, and Donnelly opted to run for U.S. Senate instead. Walorski was narrowly elected in 2012, beating Democrat Brendan Mullen by just 1.4 percentage points. She was re-elected in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020 by more substantial margins.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb directed flags to be lowered to half-staff until the date of Walorski's burial.

"At every level of public service Jackie was known to be a positive force of nature, a patriot, and a relentless policy maker with an unwavering loyalty to her constituents," Holcomb's office said in a statement. "She will be remembered as a fighter with a huge heart that always went the extra mile, and I’ll treasure the times we walked a few of those together.”

Other state, national and local leaders have taken to social media to post their reactions and condolences.

Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence:

U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.):

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.):

U.S. Transportation Secretary and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg:

Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch:

Kyle Hupfer, Indiana Republican Party chairman:

Mike Schmuhl, Indiana Democratic Party chairman:

South Bend Mayor James Mueller:

Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson:

 

This story has been updated to correct the information provided early in the investigation by police.

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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