BATON ROUGE, La. — The widow of a Louisiana congressman-elect who died last month of COVID-19 is running to fill the seat he would have occupied. 

What You Need To Know

  • Julia Letlow, the widow of a Louisiana Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, announced Thursday she is running to fill the seat he would have occupied

  • Luke Letlow, died at age 41 from complications related to COVID-19 on Dec. 29, just days before he was scheduled to be sworn into office

  • A university administrator, Julia Letlow said she is "running to continue the mission Luke started"

  • Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2-ranking Republican in the House, quickly endorsed Julia Letlow

Julia Letlow announced her candidacy Thursday for the state’s 5th Congressional District.

Her husband, Luke Letlow, died at age 41 from complications related to COVID-19 on Dec. 29, just days before he was scheduled to be sworn into office. A Republican, Luke Letlow won the Dec. 5 runoff to succeed his former boss, Rep. Ralph Abraham, who did not seek reelection. Luke Letlow also served in former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration. 

“Everything in my life and in my marriage has prepared me for this moment,” Julia Letlow, also a Republican, said in a statement Thursday. “My motivation is the passion Luke and I both shared: to better this region that we called home and to leave it a better place for our children and future generations.

“I am running to continue the mission Luke started -- to stand up for our Christian values, to fight for our rural agricultural communities and to deliver real results to move our state forward.”

Julia Letlow, who has a Ph.D in communication, comes from a higher education background. She currently serves as the executive assistant to the president for external affairs and community outreach at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. 

The district she is looking to represent encompasses 24 parishes mostly in the northeast part of the state. Sixty-four percent of the district’s voters supported President Donald Trump in November. The 5th District seat has been held by Republicans since 2004.

Julia Letlow has worked on political campaigns in north Louisiana and was active in her husband’s House run. In her online biography, ULM President Nick Bruno touted her “knowledge of the political climate,” saying it was key in providing “advice on governmental matters and policy changes at the local, state, and federal levels.” 

Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2-ranking Republican in the House, quickly endorsed Julia Letlow after her announcement Thursday. 

“I am proud to endorse Julia Letlow for Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District. … Julia shares the same commitment to public service and I can't think of anyone better to carry on Luke’s legacy in representing Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District,” Scalise wrote. 

At least two other candidates who ran against her husband last year — Democrat Sandra “Candy” Christophe and Republican Allen Guillory — will run again. 

The special election will be held March 20. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two will advance to an April 24 runoff.

The state will also hold a special election on those dates to fill the 2nd District seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond, who is joining President-elect Joe Biden’s administration as a senior adviser.