|Luke Joshua Letlow|
|Born|| December 6, 1979|
Reared in and resided in Start in Richland Parish, Louisiana
|Died|| December 29, 2020|
|Spouse(s)|| Julia Barnhill Leltow (married 2013)|
|Children|| Jeremiah John|
|Alma mater|| Ouachita Christian High School (Monroe)|
Luke Joshua Letlow (December 6, 1979 – December 29, 2020) was the incoming Republican U.S. Representative for Louisiana's 5th congressional district, which encompasses much of the eastern portion of his state. However, he died on December 29, 2020 from the coronavirus while suffering a heart attack, five days before he was scheduled to take office. In a joint statement by the Louisiana congressional delegation:
|We are devastated to hear of Luke Letlow's passing. Luke had such a positive spirit, and a tremendously bright future ahead of him. He was looking forward to serving the people of Louisiana in Congress, and we were excited to welcome him to our delegation where he was ready to make an even greater impact on our state and our Nation. More than anything, Luke was a loving husband, father, brother, and son, and his family – like so many others who have been affected by this evil disease – needs our prayers.|
— Bill Cassidy, John Neely Kennedy, Garret Graves, Steve Scalise, Cedric Richmond,
Mike Johnson, Ralph Abraham, and Clay Higgins
Prior to becoming a candidate, Letlow was the chief of staff from 2014 to 2020 to Republican Representative Ralph Abraham, who had been defeated in the 2019 gubernatorial primary and held to a pledge not to seek more than three terms in the office. Both Abraham and Letlow resided in Richland Parish east of Monroe.
All four of Letlow’s grandparents came from community of Start in Richland Parish; they knew each other well while attending Start High School. His paternal grandparents were John M. Letlow and Mary Janet (pronounced “Jean-ETTE”) Clement Letlow. His maternal grandparents were Richard Henry “Dick” Taylor and Mary Catherine Sullivan Taylor.
While attending Ouachita Christian High School in Monroe, Letlow was on the tennis and debate teams. While attending Louisiana Tech, he also served on the collegiate debate team. He received a TOPS scholarship and worked part-time as a shoe salesman to help pay his educational expenses.
Letlow also resided in Start, a small rural community in which he was reared. He attended both elementary and junior high at Start. He graduated in 1998 from Ouachita Christian High School in Monroe and in 2003 from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems. He was the son of Johnny Lynn Letlow and Katherine Dianne Taylor Letlow. He had two siblings, Paul J. Letlow of Start, and Matt J. Letlow, of Rockwall, Texas.
On April 27, 2013, he wed the former Julia Barnhill (born 1981). She graduated in 1999 a year after her husband from Ouachita Christian High School. She is also a graduate of the University of Louisiana at Monroe (2002), with a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication, a masters degree from the University of Louisiana at Monroe (2005) in Speech Communication, and a Ph.D. in Communications in 2011 from the University of South Florida in Tampa. Mrs. Letlow is the executive assistant to the president for external affairs at ULM.
There are two Letlow children, Jeremiah John (born 2019)and Jacqueline Taylor Letlow (born 2017. He was an Evangelical Presbyterian.
Letlow has been a GOP activist in Louisiana dating back to his days at Louisiana Tech. In 2001, he was elected president of the Louisiana Tech College Republicans. In 2002, he was elected as chairman of the Louisiana Federation of College Republicans. During the summer of 2000, he served as a congressional intern for U.S. Representative John Cooksey, M.D., also of the 5th congressional district. While working in Washington, D.C., Letlow attended the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he witnessed the first nomination of George W. Bush. In 2002, he worked on Cooksey's unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate, when the liberal Democrat Mary Landrieu was re-elected.
After graduating from Louisiana Tech, he joined the 2003 gubernatorial campaign staff of Republican Bobby Jindal. Following Jindal’s unsuccessful bid against Democrat Kathleen Blanco in 2003, Letlow served as the political director for Jindal’s successful 2004 campaign for Louisiana’s 1st congressional district. In 2004, he was named district director for newly elected U.S. Representative Jindal. He attended the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City and the 2012 conclave in Tampa, Florida, as a volunteer. He was elected as a delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. He was again elected as a delegate to the 2020 convention but did not attend because the proceedings were virtual at the time of the coronavirus pandemic.
Following Jindal’s successful second gubernatorial bid in 2007, Letlow joined the governor's executive staff in Baton Rouge, where he served as special assistant to the governor. In 2010, Letlow left the Jindal administration to pursue a career in the private sector. He moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, where he served as Director of Community and Government Affairs for QEP Resources (formerly known as Questar). In 2013, he and his wife Julia moved to Denver, Colorado, the corporate headquarters of QEP Resources.
In 2014, Ralph Abraham announced his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District. Letlow and his wife returned home to Louisiana, where he served as campaign chairman for Abraham’s successful bid for the seat. In January 2015, Letlow was named Abraham’s chief of staff. In 2016, he was named to the prestigious "Top 20 under 40" listing for Northeast Louisiana.
According to his website, Letlow described himself as "100% pro-life," and pledged to defend the Second Amendment and religious liberties. A supporter of U.S. President Donald J. Trump, he supported Trump’s construction of more than four hundred miles of wall on the southern border, saying: “Where I come from, I’ve always believed the old saying, 'Good fences make good neighbors,'” borrowing from the poet Robert Frost. Letlow has called illegal immigration a serious threat to national security.
2020 congressional race
On February 26, 2020, U.S. Representative Ralph Abraham announced that he would not seek a fourth term. On March 9, 2020, Letlow officially announced his campaign for the seat and was endorsed immediately by Abraham. "Luke has played a vital and integral part of every decision I've made in Congress," Abraham said. "If Luke should decide to get in the game he'll have my full backing," said Abraham. Letlow stepped down as chief of staff to run for the seat, a stipulation required by law.
On May 13, 2020, Letlow named as his campaign mangager, Andrew Bautsch, who previously served as the executive director of the Louisiana Republican Party. In addition to Bautsch, he hired veteran fundraiser Sally Nungesser.
On July 13, 2020, Letlow announced that his campaign had raised $572,609, with $502,006 cash on hand. Republican state Representative Lance Harris of Alexandria was second in fundraising with $119,768 and $117,732 cash on hand. That total includes a candidate loan of $1,200. Republican Ouachita Parish Police Juror Scotty Robinson reported $56,538 cash on hand in his March 31, 2020, first-quarter report. Alexandria Democrat Sandra "Candy" Christophe reported raising $19,212 and spending $29,190.
On July 22, 2020, Letlow officially qualified for the seat. He vowed to "continue the great work done by Dr. Abraham, who I believe set the bar," Letlow said. "I'm the only candidate who has gotten results in Washington. I'm proud of what we've accomplished." Other candidates qualifying for the seat included Republicans Allen Guillory, Sr., of Opelousas and "Matt" Hasty of Pineville. Besides Christophe, three other Democrats also ran: Jesse P. Lagarde of Amite in Tangipahoa Parish, Martin Lemelle, Jr., of Ruston, and Phillip Snowden of Monroe. In August the campaign announced the release of its first advertising for television. Letlow received the endorsements of the Republican executive committees in Washington, Tangipahoa, Grant, Lasalle, and Ouachita parishes. Committees. A month before the primary, he was endorsed by The Baton Rouge Business Report. He gained the endorsements too of U.S. Reresentatives Garret Graves and Clay Higgins. Letlow also carried the support of a bipartisan coalition of Louisiana sheriffs.
In the runoff election held on December 5, 2020, Letlow defeated the second-placed primary rival, Lance Harris, 49,182 votes (62 percent) to 30,124 (38 percent. The overall runoff turnout of 79,306 votes was only 25.6 percent of the 309,556, who participated in the November 3 primary held in conjunction with the presidential election. Letlow won every parish in the district except for Rapides, Harris, of which Harris is a native.
Death as congressman-elect
Coincidentally, Letlow was elected to Congress the day before his 41st birthday. Less than three weeks after his election, he was hospitalized in Monroe with the coronavirus, a day after being diagnosed with the disease. He was later transferred to intensive care in Shreveport, where he received remdesivir (which has been proven to be useless in combating COVID-19) instead of hydroxychloroquine.
Following Letlow's death, many bigoted leftists stormed social media outlets including Twitter to mock and falsely blame him for supposedly not taking the coronavirus seriously enough. However, Letlow had frequently wore a mask in public and largely took precautions.
Memorial services for Letlow were held on January 2, 2021, at the North Monroe Baptist Church, less than a day before he was to have been sworn into office. His mentor Ralph Abraham, whom Letlow was to have succeeded, said that Letlow had a deep love for his family, state and the 5th Congressional District. "He knew the heart and soul of the (5th Congressional District) and Louisiana. He cared about nothing but others," Abraham said during the service.
Mrs. Letlow released this statement on her husband's passing:
We are heartbroken to have lost Luke far too early, and with far too much promise, but we are immensely grateful for all that Luke achieved in a life defined by service to others and a steadfast commitment to making a real difference in this world. The incredible outpouring of support from across our community, state, and country is a testament to how many lives Luke impacted through his friendship, leadership and genuine goodness. Luke had a servant's heart, and that was evident in every conversation he had, with people of every walk of life. Our family is so thankful for the outpouring of support we have received, and will work every day to honor his memory and the legacy he leaves behind."
Letlow's passing requires a special election to fill the seat on March 20, 2021. Candidates can qualify from January 20 to 22. Sandra "Candy" Christophe, the Alexandria Democrat who finished third on November 3, announced that she will declare her candidacy on January 9. Mrs. Letlow is also considering entering the race, as are Republican state Senator Stewart Cathey and state Representatives Michael Echols, a Monroe Republican, and Chris Turner, a Moderate Republican from Ruston. Defeated runoff candidate Lance Harris may also run again. Ralph Abraham said that it is unlikely that he will contest the seat from which he retired on January 3.
- Two references:
- Deslatte, Melinda (December 29, 2020). Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow dead from COVID-19. Associated Press. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
- Brufke, Juliegrace (December 29, 2020). Louisiana Rep.-elect Luke Letlow dies of COVID-19. The Hill. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
- Morris, Kyle (December 30, 2020). Rep.-Elect Luke Letlow Suffered Heart Attack During Coronavirus-Related Operation. Breitbart News Network. Retrieved December 30, 2020.
- Greg Hilburn (November 23, 2020). Republican Luke Letlow secures sheriffs' endorsement in 5th congressional district race. The Monroe News-Star. Retrieved on December 2, 2020.
- Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, November 3 and December 5, 2020.
- Greg Hilburn (December 19, 2020). Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow hospitalized as COVID symptoms persist. The Shreveport Times. Retrieved on December 22, 2020.
- Sarah Polus (December 23, 2020). Louisiana congressman-elect in intensive care after COVID-19 diagnosis. The Hill. Retrieved December 29, 2020.
- Vox Reporter Backpedals His Mocking of Republican Rep-Elect Death from COVID After Twitter Beatdown
- Greg Hilburn (January 2, 2021). Congressman-elect Luke Letlow remembered for devotion to family, public. The Monroe News-Star. Retrieved on January 3, 2021.
- Greg Hilburn (December 31, 2020). Luke Letlow's family talks about congressman-elect's COVID death: 'We are heartbroken'. The Monroe News-Star. Retrieved on January 2, 2021.
- Greg Hilburn (January 4, 2021). Wife of late Congressman-elect Luke Letlow considers running for vacant seat. The Shreveport Times. Retrieved on January 5, 2021.