WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican U.S. Representative Jackie Walorski was killed Wednesday in a car crash in her northern Indiana district along with two of her congressional staffers and another person, police said.
The crash happened around 12:30 p.m. when a car crossed the center line on a state highway and collided head-on with the SUV Walorski was driving, the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office said. Three people in the SUV, including Walorski, 58, were killed, as was a woman driving the other car, authorities said.
Walorski, who served on the House Ways and Means Committee, was first elected to represent Indiana’s 2nd congressional district in 2012. She previously served six years in the Indiana Legislature. ‘State.
“She returned home to be with her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers,” Walorski’s chief of staff Tim Cummings said in a statement.
Walorski and her husband, Dean Swihart, were previously Christian missionaries in Romania, where they started a foundation that provided food and medical supplies to poor children. She worked as a television reporter in South Bend before turning to politics.
Zachery Potts, 27, of Mishawaka, Indiana, was also killed in the crash; Emma Thomson, 28, of Washington, DC; and Edith Schmucker, 56, of Nappanee, Indiana, according to the sheriff’s office.
Cummings confirmed that Potts and Thomson were Walorski’s congressional staffers. Thomson was Walorski’s director of communications, while Potts was his district manager and the Republican chairman of St. Joseph County in northern Indiana.
Schmucker was driving the other car, according to the sheriff’s office. The crash, which happened in a rural area near the town of Wakarusa, is still under investigation.
Walorski was seeking reelection this year for a sixth term in the solidly Republican district.
She was active on agriculture and food policy in Congress, often working across the aisle on those issues. Co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus, she introduced legislation with Democrats to bring back a Nixon-era White House event on food insecurity.
President Joe Biden highlighted that work in a statement crediting Walorski for years of public service.
“We may have represented different parties and disagreed on many issues, but she was respected by members of both parties for her work,” Biden said. “My team and I have enjoyed his partnership as we plan a historic White House conference on hunger, nutrition, and health this fall that will be marked by his deep concern for the needs of rural America.”
Republican Indiana Senator Todd Young said he was devastated by Walorski’s death.
“Jackie loved the Hoosiers and dedicated his life to fighting for them,” Young said in a statement. “I will never forget his spirit, his positive attitude and, above all, his friendship. All of Indiana mourns his passing, along with the tragic deaths of his staff Emma Thomson and Zach Potts.
Walorski was a reliable Republican vote in Congress, including against accepting electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania for Biden after the Capitol uprising.
As a member of the Indiana House, Walorski pushed for anti-abortion legislation opposed to proposals to expand the game. She became a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement.
Walorski lost a close race for Congress in 2010 to Democrat Joe Donnelly before narrowly winning the seat in 2012 as Donnelly was successful in his Senate race. She had easily won her re-election campaigns since then.
House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called Walorski a “straight, no-nonsense shooter.”
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Walorski “lived a life of service.”
“She passionately raised the voice of her northern Indiana constituents in Congress, and she was admired by her colleagues on both sides of the aisle for her personal kindness,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Pelosi ordered the United States Capitol flags flown at half-mast in honor of Walorski. The White House said its flags would be lowered on Wednesday and Thursday, and Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb issued a similar flag directive for the state.
“At all levels of public service, Jackie was known to be a positive force of nature, a patriot and a relentless policy maker with unwavering loyalty to her constituents,” said Holcomb, a Republican.
Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster of New Hampshire said she and Walorski bonded as newly elected members of Congress in late 2012 due to their husbands’ shared love of jazz music and became friends.
“I was proud to work with her on a variety of critical issues, including legislation to address the drug abuse crisis, end sexual violence, and help survivors of military sexual assault access the care they need. need,” Kuster said.
Davies reported from Indianapolis. Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed from Washington.