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Louisiana U.S. Rep-elect Luke Letlow dies from COVID-19 complications

Letlow was elected to represent the 5th District in December runoff

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

SHREVEPORT (CFP) — Less than a month after winning a hard-fought runoff to claim a seat in Congress, Louisiana Republican U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow has died from complications from COVID-19, becoming the first member or prospective member of Congress claimed by the pandemic.

Letlow, 41, died Tuesday at Ochsner LSU Health in Shreveport, where he was admitted last week after his condition worsened. He had announced on December 18 that he had tested positive and was admitted to a hospital in Monroe the next day.

U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, R-Louisiana

The Monroe Star News reported that Letlow died from a heart attack while undergoing a procedure to treat his COVID infection but had no underlying heart issues.

Letlow’s death came just five days before he was to be sworn in as a congressman on Sunday. He is survived by his wife, Julia, and two young children. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Before his election to Congress, Letlow had served as chief-of-staff for Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham. After Abraham announced his retirement in March, Letlow ran to be his replacement in the 5th District, which covers 24 parishes in northeast and central Louisiana.

With Abraham’s endorsement, Letlow had come in first place in November’s all-party jungle primary. In the December runoff, he defeated Republican State Rep. Lance Harris, capturing 62% of the vote.

His death will trigger a special election in the 5th District. Governor John Bel Edwards has set the election for March 20, to coincide with other state elections and another special election in metro New Orleans to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, who is leaving the House to join the Biden administration.

The 5th District is heavily Republican, making it likely that another Republican will replace Letlow. Abraham has said he does not plan to be a candidate.

Edwards released a statement saying he was “heartbroken that [Letlow] will not be able to serve our people as a U.S. representative, but I am even more devastated for his loving family.”

The Louisiana congressional delegation also released a statement saying that Letlow “had such a positive spirit, and a tremendously bright future ahead of him. He was looking forward to serving the people of Louisiana in Congress, and we were excited to welcome him to our delegation where he was ready to make an even greater impact on our state and our Nation.”

In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Letlow “fought passionately for his point of view and dedicated his life to public service.”

“As the House grieves Congressman-elect Letlow’s passing, our sorrow is compounded by the grief of so many other families who have also suffered lives cut short by this terrible virus,” Pelosi said.

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