Republican Julia Letlow won Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District election Saturday in a landslide less than three months after her late husband Congressman-elect Luke Letlow died from COVID complications before he could take office.
Letlow, who lives in rural Richland Parish in northeastern Louisiana, will become the first woman to represent Louisiana in Congress in more than six years.
She will also be the first Republican woman to ever represent Louisiana in Congress.
USA Today Network is projecting Letlow winning Saturday’s primary election with 65%, avoiding a runoff against Democrat Sandra “Candy” Christophe of Alexandria, who finished second with 27%.
Luke Letlow had won the seat in a December runoff election against fellow Republican state Rep. Lance Harris of Alexandria.
But Luke Letlow contracted COVID-19 soon after his victory and died Dec. 29.
Julia Letlow, an executive at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, announced on Jan. 14 she would “pick up the torch” and run for the seat.
“Everything in my life and in my marriage has prepared me for this moment,” she said then. “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.”
Julia, 41, is raising the couple’s two young children — Jeremiah, 3, and Jacqueline, 1.
She is replacing former Rep. Ralph Abraham, a Republican who didn’t seek reelection to honor a three-term limit pledge. Luke Letlow had been Abraham’s chief of staff. Abraham supported both Luke and Julia in their bids for the seat.
When Julia Letlow announced she would run, most of the state’s most powerful Republicans, as well as former President Donald Trump, rallied behind her candidacy.
She raised more than $1 million to fund her campaign , according to her campaign, and was the immediate overwhelming favorite in the race.
The only question was whether Letlow would win outright in Saturday’s primary or would be pushed to a runoff.
Louisiana’s 5th District is the largest geographically in the state covering 24 parishes. Alexandria and Monroe are the population hubs, but the boundaries dip into Acadiana to take in Opelousas and into the Florida parishes to take in Bogalusa.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.