Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, 3 others killed in northern IN car crash

Editor’s note: This article has been updated as of 1:20 p.m. Aug. 4.

U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Indiana, was one of four individuals killed in a northern Indiana car crash early Wednesday afternoon, the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office confirmed.

Congresswoman Jackie Walorski

Also killed in the crash were Zach Potts, 27, and Emma Thomson, 28. Thomson was Walorski’s communications director, while Potts was her district director and the Republican chairman for St. Joseph County.

Walorski was in a vehicle driving south on State Road 19 south of Wakaursa around 12:30 p.m. when her car drove over the center line and collided with a vehicle driven by Edith Schmucker, 56, of Nappanee. Earlier reports indicated Schmucker’s vehicle crossed the center line, but law enforcement corrected those reports on Thursday. 

Schmucker was pronounced dead at the scene.

Walorski, 58, had represented Indiana’s 2nd District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2012. She served three terms in the Indiana Statehouse, representing Elkhart, before she was elected to Congress.

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.

Under Indiana law, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb must call a special election to fill the vacancy for the remainder of Walorski’s term, according to the Indiana Capital Chronicle.

Walorski was up for election in November and Holcomb could wait until that planned election, the Capital Chronicle reports. That’s what happened when former 3rd District Congressman Mark Souder resigned in May 2010. 

Holcomb has directed flags to be flown at half-staff in Walorski’s honor. Flags will be flown at half-staff until her burial.

“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.

Leaders react:

Statements

President Joe Biden
“Jill and I are shocked and saddened by the death of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski of Indiana along with two members of her staff in a car accident today in Indiana. Born in her beloved South Bend as the daughter of a meat-cutter and firefighter, she spent a lifetime serving the community that she grew up in – as a journalist, a nonprofit director, a state legislator, and eventually as a Member of Congress for the past nine and half years. We may have represented different parties and disagreed on many issues, but she was respected by members of both parties for her work on the House Ways and Means Committee on which she served. She also served as co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus, and 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. We send our deepest condolences to her husband, Dean, to the families of her staff members, Zachery Potts and Emma Thomson, who lost their lives in public service, and to the people of Indiana’s Second District who lost a representative who was one of their own.”

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb
“Janet and I are devastated by the tragic loss of our friend Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and her two staffers — Emma Thomson and Zach Potts — earlier today. Our broken hearts go out to her husband Dean and the entire family during this time of unimaginable mourning. 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. Jackie’s record of achievement is impossible to quantify. 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. Every waking moment for her was energetically devoted to improving the lives of all Hoosiers better, the epitome of a good and faithful servant. She, and the example she set, will be missed every day forward.”

Sen. Todd Young (R-Indiana)
“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. 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.

Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Indiana)
“For almost a decade, Representative Jackie Walorski has served Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District with strength, honor, and duty. Her steadfast commitment to her district was evident in all that she did — whether it was her time spent at local businesses, meeting with constituents, or legislating here in D.C. — she always stayed true to her Hoosier values, working to make the world a better place. She was a great friend to many of us in Congress and her untimely death is a tremendous loss for the House of Representatives, our state, and our nation. May God watch over her husband Dean, her family, her staff, and her friends in the days to come.

As Members of Congress, our staff are more than just employees — they are individuals who share a dedication to public service and who work tirelessly each and every day to help us fulfill our duties to our constituents and to make our nation a better place. My thoughts and prayers are also with the families, coworkers, and friends of Representative Walorski’s two staff members, Emma Thomson and Zachery Potts, who also lost their lives today.”         

State Sen. David Niezgodski (D-South Bend)
“I am shaken and deeply sorry to hear about the passing of Representative Walorski, Zachery Potts and Emma Thompson. Rep. Walorski has represented our community for a decade, and was always fiercely dedicated to her constituents and the betterment of Indiana. My thoughts and condolences are with her loved ones as well as the loved ones of Mr. Potts and Ms. Thompson.”

Indiana Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville)
“I am shocked and devastated to learn of the deaths of Congresswoman Walorski and those who were involved in the tragic car accident this afternoon. Congresswoman Walorski was a ferocious advocate for her constituents and cared deeply about making Indiana and our country a better place for all of us. I know my family, and my colleagues here at the Statehouse, will be grieving alongside her loved ones and constituents.”

Indiana House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne)
“My heart goes out to the families of Congresswoman Walorski, Emma Thomson and Zach Potts. 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. May the memories of their legacies and work be a blessing to those who loved them and the people they served.” 

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita
“Jackie Walorski was a woman who stood strong in her values, cared for her family, and served Hoosiers well. I have many great memories and stories of our time together in Congress and on the campaign trail. In addition to everything else, she had a great sense of humor. She will be missed. Our sympathies also go out to the families of Zach Potts and Emma Thomson who died in the same tragic accident. Hoosiers across the state mourn the loss of these public servants.”

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