INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Police changed their description of the crash that killed Indiana Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski, saying Thursday that it was the van she was a passenger in that crossed the center line of a state highway and caused the frontal collision.
Walorski and two members of his congressional staff were killed in the crash Wednesday afternoon in northern Indiana, along with the woman who was driving the other vehicle, the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office said.
The department’s initial account was that the car driven by Edith Schmucker, 56, of Nappanee, Indiana, crossed into the path of the truck, but the office released a statement Thursday saying investigators had spoken with witnesses and seen video evidence that his preliminary determination of which direction the vehicles were traveling was incorrect.
Investigators determined that the SUV driven by Zachery Potts, 27, of Mishawaka, Indiana, crossed the center line for unknown reasons in a rural area near the town of Wakarusa. Potts was a Walorski District Director and Republican Chairman of St. Joseph County in northern Indiana. Also killed was Emma Thomson, 28, of Washington, DC, who was Walorski’s director of communications.
Walorski, 58, was first elected to represent Northern Indiana’s 2nd congressional district in 2012 and was seeking re-election this year to a sixth term in the solidly Republican district. Walorski was a reliable Republican vote in Congress, even against accepting electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania for President Joe Biden following the Capitol insurrection.
Under Indiana law, it will be up to local Republican officials to choose a candidate to replace Walorski on the ballot. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has the authority to schedule a special election to fill the remainder of Walorski’s current term, which ends this year.
The governor’s office and the state Republican Party said Thursday it was too early to say when those decisions would be made, as tributes to Walorski’s public service continued.
The US Senate chaplain included her, Thomson and Potts in the chamber’s opening prayer, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell praised all three in his opening remarks. He acknowledged “how big a hole Jackie and his team are leaving behind” in the Capitol.
In Indianapolis, members of the Indiana House of Representatives, where Walorski served for six years before running for Congress, bowed their heads Thursday as Republican Rep. Timothy Wesco prayed for Walorski.
Wesco, who took over Walorski’s legislative district, called Walorski a “mentor” who was “passionate about everything she did.”
“Her faith was central to her as a person, and her faith is what gives us hope today,” Wesco said. “None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.”
Indiana’s last special election for a congressional seat was in 2010, when Republican Rep. Mark Souder resigned shortly after winning the May primary. So-Govt. Mitch Daniels decided to hold the special election at the same time as the November general election for the full two-year term, citing the potential cost of a separate election and the convenience to voters.
Republican US Senator from Indiana Todd Young described Walorski as incredibly intelligent with a great sense of humor.
“He wore his values and his belief in that on his sleeve,” Young said. “Unlike many people in public life, she wasn’t really secretive about who she was and why she believed different things.”
Associated Press writer Lisa Mascaro and AP video journalist Rick Gentilo contributed from Washington.
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