In a tragic turn of events, Washington Parish's newly elected U.S. Congressman passed away last week, shortly before he would have been sworn into office.
Luke Letlow, age 41, was a victim of Coronavirus, one of the 7,537 Louisiana residents who have died of the infectious disease since the pandemic struck early in 2020.
Letlow had been elected as U.S. Representative for Louisiana's 5th Congressional District in the run-off election on December 5, when he defeated fellow Republican Lance Harris by a substantial margin across the sprawling district. Letlow also easily carried Washington Parish.
But just a few weeks after his election victory, Letlow tested positive for Coronavirus. He was admitted to a Monroe hospital on December 19, but his condition worsened and he was transferred to Ochsner-LSU Health Center in Shreveport a few days later.
At the Shreveport hospital he continued to become progressively more ill and on December 29 Letlow passed away. His physician at Shreveport said the youthful congressman-elect had no pre-existing conditions --- the death was a "cardiac event" 100% caused by Coronavirus.
Funeral services were held in Monroe this past Saturday. Gov. John Bel Edwards ordered flags at half-mast statewide on Saturday in memory of Letlow. He leaves behind his wife and two young children.
Before being elected to Congress, Letlow had served as chief of staff for 5th District Congressman Ralph Abraham, whose retirement made Letlow's election possible. Letlow had also served as a staffer for Bobby Jindal when Jindal was a congressman and later governor. Letlow had become a familiar figure in Washington Parish because of his service for Jindal and later Abraham.
Qualifying for a special election for the 5th District seat will be January 20, 21, and 22. The special election will be held March 20 and a run-off, if necessary, will be held in April.
In addition to the 5th District seat, voters in the 2nd Congressional District will also be electing a new congressman on March 20. Congressman Cedric Richmond is stepping down from the seat to join the White House staff when Joe Biden is sworn in as president on January 20.
Lance Harris, a state representative from Alexandria, who advanced to the 5th District run-off on December 5 before losing to Letlow, is expected to seek the seat again in the March special election. Asked about his plans, he said it is inappropriate to comment so close to Letlow's death.