Julia Letlow wins special election in Louisiana to take husband's seat in Congress

Julia Letlow is the first Republican woman elected to Congress from Louisiana. A special election was held Saturday to replace her late husband, Luke Letlow, who died from complications related to COVID -19.

Her history-making win comes out of a personal tragedy. Her husband was just days away from being sworn into office when he died. Congressman-Elect Letlow was elected in a run-off election on December 5. By the end of December, he was dead, becoming the first member of Congress (or Congressman-elect) to die of COVID-19 complications. Luke Letlow was only 41 years old. He left a wife and two young children – a three-year-old son and an 11-month-old daughter at the time.

Julia Letlow is a 40-year-old university administrator who, ironically, wrote a doctoral dissertation on grief. She currently serves as the executive assistant to the president for external relations and community outreach at the University of Louisiana in Monroe. Letlow decided to run for the seat in the House of Representatives left vacant after her husband’s death. She faced eleven other contenders for Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District seat. Hers was an easy victory, raising about ten times as much money as her closest challenger. Letlow is the third woman to ever be elected to the House from Louisiana and currently the only woman in the state’s congressional delegation. She brings the number of Republican women in the U.S. House to 31, a record number.

Republicans won seats in the House in the November 2020 election instead of losing them, as was predicted. Republicans won all 27 races that were reported to be toss-ups. No incumbent Republican lost his or her re-election race. A record number of Republican women were elected.

Julia announced her candidacy in January after Governor Edwards set the special election. She released a statement Saturday night after her victory.

“This is an incredible moment and it is truly hard to put into words,” Letlow said in a statement Saturday night. “What was born out of the terrible tragedy of losing my husband, Luke, has become my mission in his honor to carry the torch and serve the good people of Louisiana’s 5th District.”

“I will be a servant to the people of this district and to be present across the 24 parishes. I will listen more than I speak and seek to find solutions to our region’s challenges,” she said. “From tonight forward, I work for you and it is an honor to do so.”

She avoided a run-off because she secured a majority of the votes. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards released a statement congratulating Julia on her victory.

“This is a proud day for Julia, her children, all of her supporters, and our state, but it is also a bittersweet day as she wins the seat opened by the passing of her late husband, Luke,” Edwards said in a statement Saturday night. “I will continue to keep her in my prayers just as she has continued to exemplify strength, determination, and tenacity in the wake of a terrible tragedy. I know that these same characteristics that got her through the last few months will make her an excellent advocate for Louisiana in Washington, D.C.”

The district is mostly a rural one in North Louisiana. She had the support of most prominent Republicans, including Trump. A self-described devout Christian, she promises to carry out her late husband’s legislative goals of supporting agriculture and improving infrastructure in the district.