Anytime a legislator dies while in office, it’s an unenviable task to replace him or her. Yesterday, we brought you the news that Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) lost her life, along with three others, in a car accident.
Indianans are mourning the death of the college administrator and missionary who devoted the last 18 years of her life to public service, but the process of choosing her successor in Congress has become complicated.
Chad Pergram of Fox News noted in a Twitter thread that Indiana law makes clear how to fill her current term, but November’s election is more difficult.
“Under Indiana state law, we are within a window where the governor must call a special election to fulfill the remainder of the unexpired term of the late Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN),” Pergram tweeted.
“Indiana Republicans could decide who they want to run in a special election later this year to finish off Walorski’s term,” he continued. “What is less clear is what they do about Walorski’s name appearing on the November ballot for the full term last year.”
It’s not Indiana law that’s unclear; it’s the circumstances surrounding Walorski’s death that put a wrinkle in finding her successor. The law stipulates that the district party chair is responsible for naming a successor for the November ballot. That’s Zachery Potts, and he perished in the same accident that killed Walorski.
Gov. Eric Holcomb, also a Republican, can’t step in and name someone to replace Walorski on the ballot either. Under the U.S. Constitution, a governor can name the replacement for a senator but not a member of the House of Representatives.
Pergram points out in his thread that deceased members of Congress have appeared on general election ballots in the past.
“Such was the case with late Rep. Nick Begich (D-AK) who was killed in a plane crash along with late House Majority Leader Hale Boggs (D-LA) – who was the father of Cokie Roberts – in 1972,” he tweeted. “Begich went on to defeat future Rep. Don Young (R-AK) on the ballot that fall — despite having died. Alaska then held a special election in 1973 and voters elected Young. Young served in the House until his death earlier this year.”
In the end, it’s unclear how to proceed with finding a successor for Walorski. Leaving her name on November’s ballot and calling for a special election next year may be the only way to move forward.