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Indiana Rep. Walorski's work called 'mission' during funeral

Indiana Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, two of her staffers and a fourth person were killed in a crash Wednesday.

ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. — Republican U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski was laid to rest Thursday.

She was killed Aug. 3 in a car crash in her northern Indiana district, along with two members of her congressional staff and another person.

The funeral was scheduled to start at 11 a.m. at Granger Community Church, Palmer Funeral Homes said on its website.

The crash happened in Elkhart County around 12:30 p.m., when the SUV Walorski was in crossed the center line on State Road 19 and collided head-on with another car, the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday. The updated information came after eyewitness and video evidence was located. Police had originally said the driver of the other car crossed center. 

Walorski, 58, two of her staff members and the driver of the other vehicle, identified as 56-year-old Edith Schmucker, of Nappanee, died in the crash.

The staff members were identified as 28-year-old Emma Thomson, the representative's communications director, and 27-year-old Zachery Potts, her district director and the Republican chairman for northern Indiana’s St. Joseph County. 

Police said Potts was the one driving at the time, but the sheriff's office does not know yet what caused Potts to cross the center line.

Police said everyone in the crash had on seatbelts and airbags did deploy. They are looking for any other potential witnesses and are asking those people to call the sheriff's office.

Walorski's husband, Dean Swihart, said in a statement Wednesday that he was "touched by the support and kindness" the family has received since her death.

“Her loss leaves a massive void in our family, our community and in Congress,” Swihart said. “Our family remains focused solely on celebrating Jackie’s memory and mourning her loss as she returns home to be with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has set a special election to fill the remainder of Walorski's current term running through the rest of this year for the same date as the Nov. 8 general election.

Under Indiana law, it will be up to local Republican officials to decide nominations for the special election and to replace Walorski on the ballot for the full two-year term. The state Republican Party has scheduled an Aug. 20 caucus meeting for those selections. No Republican candidates have yet announced for the seat.

Rep. Walorski's career

Walorski and her husband were previously Christian missionaries in Romania, where they established a foundation that provided food and medical supplies to impoverished children. She worked as a television news reporter in South Bend before turning to politics.

Walorski spent her political career focused on growing the economy and bringing good jobs to northern Indiana. She also sought to strengthen national security and help veterans in need of care. 

"At every level of public service, Jackie was known to be a positive force of nature, a patriot, and a relentless policymaker with an unwavering loyalty to her constituents," Holcomb said. "Jackie’s record of achievement is impossible to quantify."

She served on the House Ways and Means Committee, giving her the opportunity to play a crucial role in how leaders use the nation's funding. 

She also was a ranking member of the subcommittee on Worker and Family Support, where she focused on helping small businesses and manufacturers grow and expanding opportunities for workers across the country, according to her biography on the U.S. House of Representatives' website. 

She was also a ranking member of the House Ethics Committee. 

Holcomb said Walorski 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."

Walorski won the Republican primary in May after running unopposed and was heavily favorited to retain her seat for a sixth term in November.

Republicans will have to choose another candidate to run in the general election, but state GOP leaders say she'll be hard to replace.

"Yeah, haven't even given that any thought. I mean, they won't be able to fill her shoes, they just won't. She was one of a kind," said Indiana Republican Party chairman Kyle Hupfer.

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