The death of Rep. Jackie Walorski earlier this month has set off a rushed contest for the Indiana Republican’s House seat that has some of her family and friends concerned about how her legacy will be preserved.
Walorski’s husband, Dean Swihart, announced Monday that he would support Rudolph Yakym, a former finance director for Walorski’s congressional campaigns, in the Nov. 8 special election to fill the remainder of her term, which will be held simultaneously with the general election. Both races are rated Solid Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.
“Rudy has spent years working in public service alongside my beloved wife and will fight for our district to protect our faith, families and communities,” Swihart said in a statement issued from Walorski’s campaign. “Rudy is a political outsider who has what it takes to stand up to the Pelosi-Biden agenda. He will fight to do the right thing, just as Jackie did every day of her career.”
Swihart’s endorsement came after days of consultations with members of Walorski’s inner circle who wanted to thwart the bids of a handful of well-known politicians with far-right views or past ethical scandals who had signaled interest in the seat, according to several Indiana GOP strategists.
Some of Walorski’s advisers had urged Swihart to run himself, but he declined. He issued a statement last week that he believed his wife would have wanted him to weigh in, but that he would wait after her funeral Friday.
A Republican fundraiser, Yakym also served on the finance committee for Indiana Sen. Todd Young’s 2022 campaign and was a delegate to the 2016 GOP convention that nominated former President Donald Trump. He is currently the director of growth initiatives at Kem Krest, an Indiana-based supply chain management company.
Indiana’s election laws left only a matter of weeks for the state’s political parties to nominate their candidates. The pool of potential candidates was limited by a state law that prohibits candidates from running for two offices simultaneously. The deadline to remove names from the November ballot has already passed, so someone already running for local or state office could not shift gears and run for the open House seat.
The state GOP is holding caucuses Saturday to nominate candidates for both the special election to fill the remainder of Walorski’s current term and the general election for a full term in January. The district’s boundaries were changed slightly under new congressional maps put in place for the 2022 election, so the precinct chairs from the current 2nd District will pick the nominee for the special election, with the chairs for the newly drawn district picking a nominee for the full term.
In addition to Yakym, five other Republicans had filed by Monday afternoon to run in both elections. They included former Attorney General Curtis Hill, whose law license was suspended for 30 days in 2020 after allegations that he had groped four women during a party for state legislative staffers in 2018; former state Rep. Curt Nisly, a Republican who sparred with the state’s GOP leadership over his far-right views and lost his seat in a May primary; and Christy Stutzman, the wife of former GOP Rep. Marlin Stutzman, who lost to Young in a 2016 primary. In that race, Stutzman attempted to portray himself as a conservative outsider, but he was undermined by reports that he had used campaign money to pay for a family vacation and to pay his brother-in-law to manage his campaign finances. Tiernan Kane, an attorney who previously clerked for Judge Edith H. Jones of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, has also filed.
The Democratic Party has not announced its procedure for nominating a candidate for the special election. Paul Steury won the nomination for the November election in the May primary.
Walorski and two of her aides, Zachery Potts, 27, of Mishawaka, Ind., and Emma Thomson, 28, of Washington, D.C., died Aug. 3 in a collision with another car on an Indiana highway. The other driver, Edith Schmucker, 56, of Indiana, was also killed.
The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement last week that its initial report of the accident was incorrect. After reviewing eyewitness and video evidence, the Sheriff’s Office concluded that the silver Toyota RAV4 in which Walorski was riding, and that Potts was driving, veered across the center lane “for reasons that are unknown at this time” and struck Schmucker’s Buick LaSabre. The office had initially reported that it was Schmucker’s car that veered across the center line.