Rudy Yakym gets GOP nod to replace late U.S. Rep. Walorski

Published: Aug. 20, 2022 at 2:40 PM EDT
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MISHAWAKA, Ind. (AP/WNDU) — Indiana Republicans on Saturday picked Rudy Yakym to replace U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski on the November ballot, after Yakym won the endorsement of the late Indiana congresswoman’s husband.

Yakym will be a heavy favorite in the November election against Democrat Paul Steury, a high school science teacher from Goshen, and Libertarian William Henry. He will run both to complete Walorski’s term that ends this year and for a full two-year term. Both elections will be on the November ballot.

Yakym received the most votes Saturday from Republican precinct committee members for their party’s nomination in northern Indiana’s solidly GOP 2nd Congressional District. He won the general election ballot vacancy through the balloting process and the special election ballot vacancy via acclamation, Indiana Republican Party spokesman Luke Thomas said in an email.

Yakym, 38, is an executive with Elkhart distribution company Kem Krest and was a longtime political ally of Walorski, including working as finance director for her first winning congressional campaign in 2012.

He overcame a field of a dozen candidates at Saturday’s Republican caucus held at Grissom Middle School, including derailing a political comeback bid by former Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, whose 2020 reelection bid failed after he faced allegations that he drunkenly groped four women during a party.

To be the winner, a candidate had to get more than a simple majority—they had to get more than 50-percent support from the precinct committeemen present in the room. Yakym not only cleared the half the room, plus one hurdle—he did it in the first round of voting.

“It tells us that we have a lot of overwhelming support. We traveled the entire district this last week and sat down and met with as many delegates as we could and we heard their concerns,” Yakym told reporters after the close of the caucus.

About 500 Republican activists were eligible to vote in the caucus Saturday. Yakym received 205 votes, while Hill received 86.

“I’ll fight for election integrity. I’ll fight to secure our borders, and I’ll even be there to keep an eye on the FBI,” Hill told the crowd.

Walorski’s husband, Dean Swihart, endorsed Yakym this past week for the Republican nomination, calling him “a political outsider who has what it takes to stand up to the Pelosi-Biden agenda.” Swihart showed up on Saturday with a spoken version of his previously written endorsement for Yakym.

“I want to be clear with you,” said Swihart. “I don’t take this endorsement lightly. Rudy and I had a brutally honest conversation about what it would mean to continue the work that Jackie did in D.C.”

Walorski, 58, was a passenger in an SUV with two members of her congressional office staff when it crossed the centerline of a highway in Elkhart County and collided with an oncoming vehicle on Aug. 3, the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office said. The two staff members and the other driver were also killed.

Yakym portrayed himself as someone who would continue Walorski’s work on conservative causes.

He overcame criticism over his ties to Indiana’s Republican establishment, including work as a member of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s 2016 gubernatorial transition team and with Sen. Todd Young’s 2022 campaign finance committee. Holcomb also appointed Yakym to the state Judicial Nominating Commission, which selects finalists for appointments to the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

Others in the Republican field to replace Walorski included former state Rep. Christy Stutzman, the wife of former U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, and state Rep. Curt Nisly, a hardline conservative who lost his reelection campaign in the May Republican primary.

Outside the caucus, campaign volunteers awaited results knowing only one campaign would go on, while those who worked on eleven others would go home.

”It was difficult for everybody to have this conversation. None of us wanted to be here,” said unsuccessful candidate Christy Stutzman. “And so, I’m glad we’re through it. I’m glad we have a candidate, and we’re going to run hard, and we’re all united behind Rudy so we’re ready to go.”

Democrats now hold a narrow 220-210 majority in the U.S. House, with Walorski’s death giving it five vacancies.

The Indiana Democratic Party will also hold a formal caucus for the special election on Tuesday, Aug. 23.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2022 WNDU. All rights reserved.

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