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Reactions and remembrances pour in for U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, killed in Wednesday car crash

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U.S. House of Representatives

Reactions and remembrances are pouring in for Indiana U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Jimtown), who was killed in a car crash in Elkhart County Wednesday.

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 — as did the driver of the southbound car, 56-year-old Edith Schmucker of Nappanee.

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, including U.S. 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," Biden said in a statement. "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."

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:

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

Contact Gemma at gdicarlo@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo.

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Updated: August 4, 2022 at 11:45 AM EDT
This story has been updated.
Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.
Gemma DiCarlo comes to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.