Family, friends, and colleagues in both Washington D.C. and Indiana are mourning the loss of Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN).
Walorski and two of her staff members were killed this week in a car crash in Elkhart County, Indiana. The driver of the other vehicle involved in the crash was also killed.
Walorski’s staff members were Emma Thomson, who handled communications, and Zachery Potts, who was her in-district director.
While the investigation into the collision by Elkhart County Police is still ongoing, initial reports from the Sheriff’s Department stated that the second vehicle crossed over the center line and hit Walorski’s car head on. The South Bend Tribune reports that police now say it was Walorski’s car that crossed the center line.
Jackie Walorski was born and raised in Indiana, growing up near South Bend. She attended Liberty College, and graduated from Taylor University with a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Public Administration. She started out her career as a reporter for South Bend CBS affiliate WSBT.
During her life, she also worked for the St. Joseph County Indiana Humane Society, Ancilla College, South Bend Regional Chamber, and Indiana University South Bend.
Walorski was also deeply rooted in her faith. She and husband Dean Swihart founded and operated a Christian ministry in Romania for four years as well.
Jackie Walorski began her political career by being elected to the Indiana State House in 2004 where she served three terms. She first ran for Congress in 2010, but lost to incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly.
Walorski won in 2012 to represent Indiana’s 2nd congressional district.
Once in Congress, Jackie Walorski was known for being a strong champion for children and families. She was also an outspoken voice for women in the GOP conference, and was instrumental in increasing the number of women in the conference. She was slated for a leadership role on the House Ways and Means Committee if Republicans take the House in November.
Before her untimely death, she authored 21 bills in the current 117th Congress.
Among them were a bill to increase choice in education, a bill to increase telehealth benefits, and a bill to fight international fentanyl trafficking. Her other legislation largely focused on seniors and children.
Reaction from Indiana and Washington D.C. was of sadness and disbelief at the news of Walorski’s death. In addition to former Vice President and fellow Hoosier Mike Pence, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a statement in a series of tweets.
Fellow Hoosier and Congresswoman Victoria Spartz called her friend “a strong fighter for our country and our freedoms.”
Indiana House Democrats also tweeted out support.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy issued a tweet on behalf of Walorski’s office:
House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) called Walorski “a champion for the people of Indiana.” He added, “Jackie and her staffers died serving her constituents. They will be missed, and our nation will miss their service.” Walorski had served on Scalise’s whip team.
Rep. Todd Young said he was “truly devastated.”
Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA) stated he was “at a loss for words.” He continued, “Jackie was a kind soul with a huge heart. She was a trusted colleague and good friend. There was no one who fought harder for her constituents than Jackie. I’m going to miss her terribly.”
House Republicans have lost two other members this year. Longest serving member of Congress Rep. Don Young of Alaska died in March at age 88, and Minnesota Rep. Jim Hagedorn who died in February after losing his battle with cancer.
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