The Jackie Walorski I knew
· · Aug 4, 2022 ·

"Did you hear about Jackie?"

That was the text message from a friend that popped up on my phone early Wednesday evening. I didn't need the last name to know she was talking about Jackie Walorski, Indiana's dynamic and gregarious 2nd District Congresswoman. Once you'd met her and known her the way that I did, a first name was more than enough to identify her.

Sometime Wednesday afternoon, Congresswoman Walorski and two young staffers perished in an automobile accident in her old northern Indiana stomping grounds just an hour or so from my home. I still can't process it. What's remarkable is that I don't think I had talked to her personally in about 10 years, but it sure doesn't seem like that long.

Back in 2010 is when I first met her – a young state representative who had set Indianapolis on fire with her staunch conservative, pro-life politics before announcing her candidacy for Congress. Walorski was looking to make a difference in D.C., and saw the 2010 red tide rising in response to the catastrophic passage of ObamaCare as her chance.

At the time I had a growing radio show that covered significant portions of her targeted district, and consequently found myself a featured speaker alongside her at many of the "tea party" meetings exploding around our state. It didn't take long before she became a regular guest on my radio program and we always coordinated which events, rallies, and tea parties we were going to in order to appear together.

I remember one time driving over 2 hours to get to an event we'd been invited to in Valparaiso, but that had not been very well planned at all. I was a little perturbed by the lack of stage, seating for the crowd, and basic organization of speakers and performers. Jackie didn't seem to care a bit. She was comfortable standing around with people until someone decided it was her turn to speak. And no matter how awkward or unimpressive everything that preceded her had been, when she spoke, she would light a fire.

The press consistently derided her as a "firebrand," their standard, not-so-subtle way of dismissing convicted conservatives as troublemakers, agitators, and demagogues. But in actuality, Jackie was a faithful Christian who had spent years of her life sharing the Gospel of Jesus overseas before deciding to serve the Kingdom of God through her political involvement. She was passionate about her beliefs and convictions, and always understood it was no more inappropriate for her to actively advocate those in the public square than it was for a Democrat worshipping the spirit of the age to actively advocate his.

As her campaign began to draw national attention, I was always more than happy to impress that truth on visiting, national journalists from CNN and MSNBC. And I was more than honored that Jackie trusted me to do so.

When MSNBC's Tom Curry came to spend the day on her campaign bus, Jackie invited me to ride along and be her warm-up speaker and emcee at a series of rallies they had planned. The day would culminate with an evening rally in my hometown, where we were joined by sitting Congressman (and soon-to-be gubernatorial candidate) Mike Pence.

It was a great day, if for no other reason, I watched a hardened progressive journalist warm-up to the incredibly gracious, thoroughly charismatic Jackie Walorski. It was apparent he didn't agree with her politics, but there was no doubt by the end of the day that he liked her. We all did. I don't know how you couldn't.

After she won election, she called me and told me that if I was ever interested in a career change, she would have a place for me on her staff. I was so appreciative of the gesture, but we both agreed she had her calling and I had mine.

We talked on the phone only once after that, but it led to one of my favorite memories. She was in D.C. and I was driving down U.S. 31 in Indiana, quickly approaching a notorious dead zone in Miami County for those who have Verizon cell service. Now, if you ever talked with Jackie, you knew that your participation in the conversation was often unnecessary. She always had plenty to say and when she was on a roll, you just sat back and listened.

Ordinarily I would have just pulled over and finished our conversation on the side of the road, but I was in a hurry. So I went for it. Jackie was talking and I entered the dead zone. About 90 seconds later I reemerged and fully expected to either hear Jackie saying, "Hello? Did I lose you?" or find that she had hung up assuming a dropped call. Instead, she was still going. I added a couple "Uh-huhs" and "yeps," and only now, with the clarity of eternal vision, does she know my little secret.

And that's what makes this pain I feel for Dean (her husband), the loss I feel for the rest of her family, and the hole she leaves in the hearts of all those who knew her, somewhat bearable. It's true, Jackie can and will be replaced in Washington. Her conservative voting record will likely be mirrored by the next person to fill that seat. But there will never be another Jackie Walorski.

Fortunately and thankfully, Jackie died as she lived – in the power of Christ. Which means she has heard those unimaginable words, "Well done my good and faithful servant, enter now and receive your reward." I only hope she slows down enough up there to follow those instructions.

Rest in peace, my friend. I can't wait to see you again.

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