Congressman-elect Luke Letlow Dies Of COVID-19

Dec 29, 2020

Congressman-elect Luke Letlow from Louisiana’s 5th District has died of COVID-19.

Letlow first announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 18 — less than two weeks after winning his Congressional seat in a runoff election.

One day after announcing his diagnosis, Letlow was admitted to St. Francis Hospital in Monroe. He was later transferred to Ochsner-LSU Health in Shreveport for more advanced care. He died there Tuesday.

Dr. G.E. Ghali, chancellor at Ochsner-LSU Health in Shreveport, told USA Today's Greg Hillburn that Letlow had no underlying conditions, 'It was all COVID.'

The 41-year-old Congressman-elect is survived by his wife, Julia Barnhill Letlow, and two children.

Letlow would have been sworn in on Jan. 3, 2021.

No sitting member of Congress has died of COVID-19, NPR reports, though by December about 50 lawmakers and more than 220 workers had tested positive or were presumed to have the virus. 

Gov. John Bel Edwards released a statement mourning Letlow’s untimely death.

“Congressman-elect Letlow felt a calling from a young age to serve the people of his home state,” Edwards said in a press release. “COVID-19 has taken Congressman-elect Letlow from us far too soon. I am heartbroken that he will not be able to serve our people as a U.S. Representative, but I am even more devastated for his family.”

The Republican Party of Louisiana released this statement Tuesday night: 

"We are devastated by the news of Congressman-Elect Luke Letlow's passing. We have lost a rising political star and a good friend. He was a loving husband and father, and we ask for your prayers for his family at this difficult time."

House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-La.), Congressman Ralph Abraham (R-La.), Congressman Garret Graves (R-La.), Senator John Kennedy (R-La.), Congressman Clay Higgins (R-La.), and Congressman Mike Johnson (R-La.) also released a statement:

"We are devastated to hear of Luke Letlow's passing. Luke 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. More than anything, Luke was a loving husband, father, brother, and son, and his family — like so many others who have been affected by this evil disease — needs our prayers. We all join in sending our strongest support to Luke’s wife Julia and their young family, and are keeping them in our prayers."

Letlow previously served six years as the chief of staff for his predecessor, Rep. Ralph Abraham and managed the three-term congressman’s gubernatorial campaign in 2019. Letlow, a Richland Parish-native, began his career in politics working for former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

“There was no one like Luke Letlow, and there was no one who loved this state and its people more,” Abraham said in a written statement. “Luke leaves behind a legacy of service, a love for his community, and a love and understanding of people of every walk of life that will forever be unmatched.”

Gov. Edwards is expected to schedule a March 20 special election to replace Letlow.

The special election in Letlow’s 5th Congressional District will coincide with the previously scheduled special election to replace Cedric Richmond, who is stepping down from his seat representing the state’s 2nd Congressional District to take a job as a senior advisor in the Biden Administration.

This story has been updated.

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