BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow once said he didn’t come from money, nor a big political family. Yet along the way, the longtime behind-the-scenes political staffer managed to network a family all his own, spending decades taking calls and meeting people.
Letlow, who served as retiring Rep. Ralph Abraham’s chief of staff before winning the Dec. 5 race to replace him, died Tuesday night of COVID-19 complications at a Shreveport hospital. He was 41.
Those who remember the late Richland Parish Republican recall someone willing to hear their concerns.
“With such support in his district, with such promise in his future, he was going to do great things in Congress,” said Louisiana transportation secretary Shawn Wilson, a University of Louisiana-Lafayette graduate who first met the Louisiana Tech alum Letlow years ago through a student government group. “I always found him to take a half-full approach but one that was realistic. I like to believe that, as a congressman, he was going to reflect just that.”
“Luke had a very bright future ahead of him,” said John Couvillon, a pollster who worked with Letlow through Abraham’s office. “I just think of him as somebody who was a top-notch person. And he had really good political instincts.”
“You always hope and think in the back of your mind that this can’t really happen,” Monroe News-Star reporter Greg Hilburn said of Letlow’s death. “He was able to make a lot of connections with people. It’s a real tragedy.”
Letlow’s opponent in the December congressional runoff, Lance Harris, offered this statement Wednesday:
“Luke represented everything that is good about our country and our state and would have been an incredible congressman. His passion for public service was only surpassed by his love for his family. Every time I spoke with Luke, he immediately talked about his two children. He loved them and his wife with all of his heart. Luke was a fine man, a fine husband, and a fine father. He knew what was most important in life and will be greatly missed.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to call a spring special election to fill Letlow’s seat. Harris, a Republican, did not say whether he would seek the role again.
“To talk about politics right now would be the most inappropriate thing I could ever imagine,” he said. “It’s time for our state to mourn this loss. It’s time to pray for his wife and his two young children. It’s not a time for politics.”
Edwards has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on the day of Letlow’s funeral. The late congressman-elect’s family plans to announce arrangements at a later date.