On the day before he was to be sworn into the US House of Representatives, Congressman-elect Luke Letlow’s all too brief but very remarkable life was celebrated at a Monroe church.
The totality of the tragedy, from leaving a young family behind to the bright political future that laid ahead, was impossible to process, even more so for those who knew Luke and worked with him throughout his distinguished career in government.
Passing away mere weeks after his landslide victory in the December runoff, the unwelcome political reality of yet another election for the 5th District in a matter of months began to set in and the inevitable questions of who would run or should run started to be asked.
The name of Luke’s wife Julia was discussed as was the previous occupant of the seat, Dr. Ralph Abraham.
On Wednesday Julia made her decision to seek the opportunity to finish her late husband’s work.
Louisiana has sent only five women to Capitol Hill, three of whom were widows succeeding their husbands who passed away in the midst of the term they were elected.
The Kingish’s widow Rose McConnell Long was appointed to succeed her gunned down husband and then won the special election for the balance of term that expired in 1937.
In 1985 Cathy Long won a special election to her husband’s central Louisiana seat in Congress after Gillis Long passed away from heart failure not long after his 1984 reelection. Like her late husband’s aunt, Long did not seek reelection after winning.
In 1973 Lindy Boggs won a special election to the US House of Representatives after her husband, Democratic Majority Leader Hale Boggs, disappeared while flying to a campaign stop for a Democratic congressional candidate in Alaska.
Unlike the Long widows, Boggs sought reelection to the post and would serve with distinction until retiring in 1991.
At 41, Julia Letlow would become the youngest member of state’s congressional delegation if elected. Letlow would also become the first female Republican ever elected to Congress from Louisiana.
The Republican Party needs to become younger to have a shot of winning over voters from a generation of young Americans that is suspicious of, if not outright hostile towards the GOP.
Julia’s life experience would offer a unique perspective that should be considered in the creation of policy America’s halls of power. In addition to being a voice for the people of the impoverished 5th District Julia could also be an advocate for young widows, whether they be the spouses of our fallen warriors in uniform to the surviving wives of young men who lost their lives to addiction or depression.
Julia would also be the strongest candidate to preserve the state’s second north Louisiana congressional seat during the upcoming reapportionment process.
Anyone who knew Luke was cognizant of his love for the rural side of Louisiana and he was proud of his country roots.
Luke’s legacy isn’t his surname but his unbridled passion for his home state and his desire to serve its people.
Julia would bring far more than just her late husband’s name to Washington but his servant’s heart and his abiding love for Louisiana.
At a time when the Republican Party must desperately revamp its appeal to the masses lest risk becoming an increasingly shrinking and irrelevant alternative to the Democrats, Julia Letlow could help flip the prevailing political narrative.
Louisiana’s 5th District seat in the US House of Representatives belongs to the voters of the sprawling district; they voted with 62% in the December runoff to loan that privilege to Luke.
The voters in Louisiana’s northeast-central-Florida parishes should strongly consider letting Julia borrow it to see what this highly educated young Republican woman who has already traversed across the district and engaged with thousands of people from all backgrounds can do with this opportunity.