Politics

Congressman-elect Luke Letlow dies from Covid complications days before being sworn in

Phil Helsel
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In this July 22, 2020 file photo, Luke Letlow, R-Start, chief of staff to exiting U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, speaks after signing up to run for Louisiana's 5th Congressional District in Baton Rouge, La.
Melinda Deslatte | AP

A U.S. Congressman-elect from Louisiana who was 41 years old died Tuesday evening from complications of Covid-19, his spokesman announced Tuesday night.

Luke Letlow, a Republican, was elected as U.S. representative for Louisiana's 5th Congressional District in a December runoff.

Letlow spokesman Andrew Bautsch confirmed the congressman-elect's death at Ochsner-LSU Health Shreveport on Letlow's Facebook page.

"The family appreciates the numerous prayers and support over the past days but asks for privacy during this difficult and unexpected time," Bautsch said in a statement. "A statement from the family along with funeral arrangements will be announced at a later time."

Letlow is survived by his wife, Julia Barnhill Letlow, and two young children, Bautsch said.

His death occurred less than a week before the new Congress is sworn in on Jan. 3.

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Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards urged people in the state to pray for Letlow's family, and he will order flags to be flown at half-staff on the day of his funeral.

Letlow announced on Dec. 18 that he tested positive for Covid-19, days later tweeted that he was being treated at a hospital, and on Wednesday his representative said he'd been transferred to another hospital where he was stable in the intensive care unit.

Louisiana's Congressional delegation, including House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, said in a statement that "we are devastated to hear of Luke Letlow's passing."

"Luke had such a positive spirit, and a tremendously bright future ahead of him," the delegation of representatives and senators said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., tweeted that "Our hearts break tonight as we process the news of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow's passing."

Letlow also worked for former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who tweeted that he and his wife, Supriya, were heartbroken to learn of his death.

"Luke has been a good friend for so many years, and we are saddened he was taken from us at such a young age," Jindal wrote. "We had talked in recent days about his excitement about the opportunity to serve the people of the 5th Congressional district, and his love and devotion for Julia and their kids."

"I first met Luke when he was still a college student, and spent countless hours with him in his truck driving the back roads of Louisiana," Jindal wrote. "His passion for service has been a constant throughout his life."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement that "Tonight, the United States House of Representatives sadly mourns the passing of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow."

Letlow beat fellow Republican Lance Harris in a runoff election earlier this month, 62 to 38 percent, according to the secretary of state's website.

He served as chief of staff for Rep. Ralph Abraham, who he was elected to succeed in Congress, Edwards said. Abraham announced his retirement in February.

There have been 304,000 people either confirmed to have had Covid-19 or probable cases in Louisiana during the pandemic, and almost 7,400 people have died in the state, according to the state health department.

Nationwide, there have been more than 19.5 million cases, with more than 338,000 deaths, according to an NBC News count of reports.