Congressman-Elect Letlow Dies of Complications from COVID-19

December 30, 2020 by Dan McCue
Luke Letlow, R-Start, speaks after signing up to run for Louisiana's 5th Congressional District, on July 22, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow, died Tuesday at Ochsner LSU Health in Shreveport, La., due to complications of COVID-19, just weeks after successfully competing in a runoff election for his seat.

The 41-year-old Republican is survived by his wife, Julia Barnhill Letlow, and two young children — Jeremiah, 3, and Jacqueline, 11 months.

“The family appreciates the numerous prayers and support over the past days but asks for privacy during this difficult and unexpected time,” said Letlow’s spokesman, Andrew Bautsch, in a written statement.

Letlow announced Dec. 18 that he tested positive for COVID-19 and was quarantining at his Richland Parish home.

However, the following day he was admitted to St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, La., before ultimately being transferred to Shreveport.

LSU Health Shreveport Chancellor G.E. Ghali told USA Today that Letlow died from a heart attack following a procedure related to the infection.

“It’s devastating to our entire team,” Ghali said. “He had no underlying conditions. It was just COVID.”

Upon learning of the congressman-elect’s passing, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Letlow was “taken … 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 loving family,” Edwards said.

“I hope all of the people of Louisiana will join Donna and me in praying for Congressman-elect Letlow’s family, especially his wife Julia and their two children, his many friends and the people of the 5th Congressional District. Louisiana has lost more than 7,300 people to COVID-19 since March, and each one of them leaves a tremendous hole in our state,” the governor added.

Letlow won the 5th Congressional District seat with 62% of the vote Dec. 5 in a runoff election against fellow Republican state Rep. Lance Harris of Alexandria.

He would have succeeded his former boss Rep. Ralph Abraham, who didn’t seek reelection after honoring a pledge to serve a limit of three terms.

Letlow had been Abraham’s chief of staff.

“I’m ready to get to work, and I am focused on bringing jobs, investment and opportunity to our district. Each and every person across our rural landscape, whether it’s Bastrop, Bunkie, Bogalusa or all the places in between, has my word that I will never stop fighting to move Louisiana’s 5th District forward,” Letlow said after his victory.

The district is largely rural, containing all or part of 24 parishes, the Mississippi River delta region and the cities of Monroe and Alexandria.

In an appearance on the Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends” Wednesday morning, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said word of Letlow’s death is “devastating.”

“He’s been fighting, he was battling in the hospital up in Shreveport and, you know, had taken a turn for the worse right before Christmas,” Scalise said. “It was going up and down. And, you know, it was just heartbreaking.

“I mean, Luke is a young guy, 41 years old, in great health, and looking forward to a bright future. He had just gotten elected to Congress three weeks ago,” the Republican Whip continued. “We would talk a lot about the things he wanted to do, the committees he wanted to get on. Boy, talk about a loss of someone with so much energy. He’s got a beautiful young family. I know my prayers are with Julia, his two young kids. You know, everything about this is just heart breaking.

“Our whole delegation is devastated. Luke is just, you know, one of those people that everybody liked and, boy, he was really looking forward to the opportunity to serve in Congress and just a tragic loss,” Scalise said.

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