- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Rep. Jackie Walorski and two top aides were killed in a car crash in her district on Wednesday. The fifth-term Indiana Republican was 58.

According to the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office, the crash happened on State Road 19 south of State Road 119 at approximately 12:32 p.m., when a northbound passenger car traveled left of center and collided head-on with a southbound sports utility vehicle.

All three occupants in the southbound vehicle — Ms. Walorski of Elkhart, Indiana, and two of her staffers, Zachery Potts, 27, of Mishawaka, Indiana, and Emma Thomson, 28, of Washington — died of their injuries. Ms. Thomson was the congresswoman’s communications director, while Mr. Potts was her district director and the Republican chair for northern Indiana’s St. Joseph County.

The sole occupant of the northbound vehicle, Edith Schmucker, 56, of Nappanee, Indiana, was pronounced dead at the scene as well.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, shared on Twitter that the husband of Ms. Walorski, Dean Swihart, had just learned of her death.

A member of the House for 10 years and ranking member of the Ethics Committee, Ms. Walorski was well-liked by her colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Condolences poured in from lawmakers and from the White House.

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President Biden said he and first lady Jill Biden were “shocked and saddened” by the deaths.

“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,” Mr. Biden said in a statement.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said the House “sadly mourns the sudden and tragic passing of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski.”

“A lifelong Hoosier, Congresswoman Walorski lived a life of service: whether caring for impoverished children in Romania, representing her community in the Indiana Statehouse or serving nearly a decade in the House,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “She passionately brought the voices of her north Indiana constituents to Congress, and she was admired by colleagues on both sides of the aisle for her personal kindness.”

Mr. McCarthy in his statement, said, “This news is absolutely devastating. Jackie was a dear friend, trusted advisor, and the embodiment of integrity who achieved the admiration and respect of all her colleagues in the House,” adding, “She always put others first.”

Mr. McCarthy said that when there was a vacancy for Republican leader of the Ethics Committee, Ms. Walorski was his first call.

“Everyone who knew Jackie knows she was tough, but fair — a no-nonsense, straight shooter who knew that Congress must reflect the will of the people with decency and honesty,” he said. “The House will greatly miss Jackie‘s compassion, dedication and integrity, but we should all seek to honor her memory by living our lives with the same commitment to others that Jackie lived hers.”

Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. McCarthy recognized and mourned the passing of Ms. Walorski‘s staffers, who died in the crash.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, said he was “devastated to hear the horrible news” of Ms. Walorski and her two staffers’ passing.

She was a dear friend who loved serving the people of Indiana in Congress. My prayers are with her loving husband Dean, the rest of her family, and the families of the two staffers,” he said.

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, said, “I’m deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski. It was an honor to serve with her during her time on [the congressional COVID oversight panel],” he went on to say. “My prayers are with her family and the families of those who also lost their lives in this terrible accident. May they rest in peace.”

Ms. Walorski and her husband were previously Christian missionaries in Romania, where they established a foundation that provided food and medical supplies to impoverished children, The Associated Press reported. She worked as a television news reporter in South Bend and served in the Indiana state legislature before coming to Congress in 2013 to represent the 2nd Congressional District.

• This article was based in part on wire service reports.

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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