Several people are weighing possible campaigns for the 5th District congressional race in light of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow's death last week.
Qualifying for the March 20 special election begins in two weeks, according to Shauna Sanford, spokesperson for Gov. John Bel Edwards. The period to qualify as a candidate will run from Jan. 20 to Jan. 22.
Letlow, 41, of Start, died Dec. 29 while receiving treatment for COVID-19 at a hospital in Shreveport. He defeated state Rep. Lance Harris, of Alexandria, a fellow Republican, with 62 percent of the vote in a December run-off election. He had aspired to serve in the Congress for years and was supposed to have been sworn into office Jan. 3.
According to published reports, Letlow's wife, Julia, is considering entering the special election. Julia Letlow was named a finalist for the job of president at the University of Louisiana-Monroe last year.
Julia Letlow, 41, has two children, Jeremiah and Jacqueline. They are ages three and one, respectively.
The day after Letlow's death, Ethan Estis, who worked as the political director for Letlow's congressional campaign, announced the establishment of a family trust to assist the family. Estis noted there was no limit on donations. According to Estis, corporate, political action committee (PAC), campaign donations as well as personal checks would be accepted.
Published reports also indicated former Congressman Ralph Abraham, who Letlow succeeded, had not ruled out qualifying as a candidate. Last year, he decided not to seek re-election in light of his previous pledge to only serve three terms, or six years, in the Congress. Letlow managed Abraham's 2014 campaign in the 5th District race and also served as his chief of staff from 2015 until early 2019.
On Tuesday, Democrat candidate Sandra “Candy” Christophe, of Alexandria, announced she would campaign once more for the congressional seat.
“After much prayer, I do not feel relieved of my assignment to serve District 5 as its next U.S. Congressional Representative,” Christophe said.
Christophe placed third in the November primary election, tallying 16 percent of the vote behind Letlow (33 percent) and Harris (17 percent).
Harris, who collected only 38 percent of the vote in the December run-off, did not return The Ouachita Citizen's request for comment before press time Tuesday night.
Many people told The Ouachita Citizen they would give thought to qualifying as a candidate this month only if Abraham or Julia Letlow decided not to enter the race.
Ouachita Parish Police Juror Scotty Robinson, a Republican, who placed fifth in the November primary with 8 percent of the vote, said he was considering but would not run against Julia Letlow.
“If she runs, I will be behind her 100 percent,” Robinson said. “If she doesn't run and supports someone, I'll support whoever she supports.”
Ouachita Parish Police Jury President Shane Smiley, of Monroe, also is weighing a possible campaign. Smiley challenged Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a Democrat from Bossier City, in the November election but came up short with 47 percent of the vote.
State Rep. Michael Echols, R-Monroe, and Sen. Stewart Cathey, told the newspaper they had not ruled out mounting a campaign though they were each waiting to see what Abraham and Julia Letlow decided.
“I am not ruling anything out, but until both Congressman Abraham and Julia Letlow make a formal decision, I don’t believe anyone should be putting out feelers or running polls for Luke’s unexpired term,” said Cathey, R-Sterlington. “Until that time, I am going to pray for the family of the late congressman-elect.”
Lee Denny, ULM's Assistant Athletics Director for Fundraising and Development, said he was considering a run but would wait to make his decision until Julia Letlow announced her plans.
“Julia has my 100 percent support in whatever she decides,” Denny said. “My prayers remain with the Letlow family.”