Julia Letlow won a special election on Saturday to represent the 5e Congressional District and will succeed her husband Luke, who took the seat in December to die of COVID three weeks later.
Letlow, who becomes Louisiana’s first Republican woman elected to the House, won 65 percent of the vote, according to full but unofficial results.
Letlow, 40, had been heavily favored in a 24 parish district that contains mostly farms and small towns and stretches from Monroe in Alexandria to Opelousas in St. Francisville to Bogalusa in Florida parishes.
She had the built-in support of her husband’s supporters and also had the backing of former President Donald Trump, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, who is by Jefferson Parish.
Trump won 64% of the district in November.
Julia Letlow had just started treating the death of her husband, MP-elect Luke Letlow, on December 29 from complications from COVID-19 when she …
Luke Letlow died on December 29, just days before he took office after winning the congressional race on December 5 with 62% of the vote.
The biggest uncertainty after her death was whether Julia Letlow was going to put her career aside to be a candidate. She was naturally in shock and focused on comforting their two children, Jeremiah, 3, and Jacqueline, 1.
She had the credentials. With a doctorate from the University of South Florida, she served as a senior administrator at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and was one of the sixth finalists last year to be the new university president.
Julia Letlow announced on Jan. 14 that she would be running “to pick up the torch my husband left behind,” as she later put it.
No major Republican or Democrat has challenged her.
Candy Christophe, a 53-year-old Democrat, finished second in the field of 12 candidates.
Christophe, a social worker and addiction counselor in Alexandria, won around 27%, according to full but unofficial feedback.
“We need jobs and affordable health care,” said Christophe, who had the backing of the Louisiana Democratic Party.
She was third in last year’s November primary.
The neighborhood is home to Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech, and the University of Louisiana at Monroe, as well as Lumen, a Fortune 500 company formerly known as CenturyLink. Pentecostal churches dot the neighborhood, with a concentration along Interstate 20 to the north.
Culturally, it sounds more like Arkansas and Mississippi than the ethos of New Orleans and Acadiana.
The turnout was 21.2%, slightly more than the 17-18% projected by the Secretary of State’s office.
While campaigning, Julia Letlow focused on the same issues as her husband – improving education; repairing roads, bridges and sewers with a massive federal infrastructure bill; making sure farmers get the help they need from government; and the expansion of broadband Internet service in rural areas.
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Letlow noted that she had slow internet service at her home in Start, a small town in the parish of Richland east of Monroe.
While campaigning, Letlow also spoke openly about her Christian faith and stressed to Conservative voters that she was against abortion and opposed efforts to restrict gun ownership.
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Letlow said she would have voted against impeachment of Trump and approved the decision of the Louisiana Republican Party executive committee to censor U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy for his impeachment vote. She said she would have voted with her fellow Republicans against President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion economic relief package.
She said she would fight any plans to carve out her district when the Legislature meets later this year to redraw the boundaries of Congress.
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Luke Letlow was in a good position to run for the seat as he had spent six years as the right-hand man of Republican American Ralph Abraham, a Republican doctor elected to seat in 2014, finished third in the governor’s race in 2019 and then chose to not seek re-election to the House in 2020.