Letlow, who served as chief of staff to former Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.) Before being elected to take the seat, was due to be sworn in in Congress on Sunday. He is the first member or elected member to die from the coronavirus, although dozens of lawmakers have tested positive for Covid-19 in the past year.
Letlow leaves behind a wife and two young children. He was first admitted to a Monroe hospital on December 19, but was transferred and placed in intensive care last week when his condition deteriorated.
Capitol Hill lawmakers and aides said they were devastated to learn of Letlow’s passing. Minority House Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a brief statement that “our hearts are breaking tonight as we deal with the news”.
The entire Louisiana delegation, led by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, issued a joint statement offering condolences.
“Luke had such a positive spirit and an extremely bright future ahead of him. He looked forward to serving the people of Louisiana in Congress, and we were delighted to welcome him to our delegation where he stood ready to make an even greater impact on our state and nation, ”the statement said.
“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 – need our prayers.
Governor John Bel Edwards offered his condolences via Twitter: “It is with a heavy heart that @FirstLadyOfLA and I offer our condolences to the family of MP-elect Luke Letlow on his passing after a battle with COVID-19. #Lagov.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also paid tribute to him: “Congressman-elect Letlow was a ninth generation Louisiana who fought passionately for his point of view and devoted his life to public service. As the House mourns the passing of MP-elect Letlow, our grief is compounded by the grief of so many other families who have also suffered lives cut short by this terrible virus. May it be a comfort to Luke Julia’s wife and their children Jeremiah and Jacqueline that so many mourn their loss and pray for them in this sad time.
And Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, President of the GOP Conference in Congress, also mourned the passing of Letlow: “Such devastating news about Congressman-elect Letlow. Huge loss – we will pray for Luke and his family . “
The 5th district of Louisiana covers the northeastern part of the state. Letlow won a run-off on Dec. 5 against another Republican, State Representative Lance Harris, to settle one of the last indefinite races of the 2020 election cycle. Abraham had refused to be re-elected this year.
Before working for Abraham, Letlow had worked in the administration of Bobby Jindal, the former governor of Louisiana.
On Twitter, Jindal said, “I first met Luke when he was still a student, and spent countless hours with him in his truck driving the back roads of Louisiana. His passion for service has been a constant throughout his life. “
Cases of candidates elected to Congress who died before they could be sworn in are very rare. A notable example was Jack Swigert, a former astronaut who was elected to a House seat in Colorado in 1982 but died of cancer at the end of December.
David Cohen contributed to this report.