Republican insider Luke Letlow will be the next congressman to represent Northeastern and Central Louisiana in the state’s 5th congressional district. He was on track to handily beat state Rep. Lance Harris, a fellow member of the GOP, in a low-turnout runoff election Saturday (Dec. 5).
Letlow, 40, has never held elected office before, but he has a long history working behind-the-scenes in state Republican politics. He worked for Bobby Jindal when Jindal represented southeastern Louisiana in Congress and during Jindal’s first term as governor. Letlow also served as current U.S Rep. Ralph Abraham’s chief of staff for most of Abraham’s three terms in office. Letlow left that job when he decided to run for the office himself after Abraham announced his retirement.
During the campaign, Letlow touted his experience on Capitol Hill and his deep roots in the district. He grew up in Start, Louisiana — a small Northeastern Louisiana community where generations of his family have lived as farmers. Letlow also attended Louisiana Tech, one of the two major public universities located in the congressional district.
Prior to winning the election, Letlow said he would focus on trying to expand broadband access in Louisiana. He will also seek a seat on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, where he can influence farm policies and economic development in rural areas.
Like Abraham, Letlow will also advocate for expanding trade with Cuba — a move that elected leaders in both political parties believe would benefit Louisiana. Due to the close proximity of Cuba and Louisiana, local farmers would have an advantage in selling their products to the Carribean state if trade channels were opened.
The 5th Congressional District seat was up for grabs after Abraham announced he was retiring earlier this year. The congressman, who ran for governor last year, was first elected in 2014. Letlow received Abraham’s endorsement in the race.
Letlow and Harris both beat out a crowded field of candidates — including two Democrats — to make it into the runoff election. Letlow both had a financial advantage — having raised more money than Harris — and a geographical hand up in the race. Letlow lives outside the Monroe metropolitan area, which has more 5th district residents than the Alexandria area, where Harris lives.
Harris nearly didn’t make it into the runoff election. He only beat out Democrat Candy Christophe by 456 votes in the primary. Had Christophe beaten out Harris, Letlow would have had a much easier road to victory. With two Republican candidates running against each other, the outcome of the runoff race was far less certain.
The 5th district is more than a third African American and Letlow spent some time reaching out to Black and Democratic voters for their support ahead of the runoff election.
The 5th district has significant needs. It is one of the largest and poorest congressional districts in the entire country. The district takes in 24 parishes and includes Monroe, Alexandria, Opelousas, Ruston, Bogalusa, Jackson and St. Francisville.