Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards intends to call a special election for Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District on March 20, with a runoff election scheduled for April 24, if necessary. The seat needs to be filled because of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow’s unexpected death from COVID-19 complications Tuesday.
The governor’s office said Edwards intends to schedule the general and runoff elections for Louisiana’s expected 2nd Congressional District vacancy on the same dates. U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, announced weeks ago that he was leaving the 2nd District seat to join President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.
Candidates for both congressional races will be expected to qualify to run on Jan. 20-22, according to Louisiana’s Secretary of State’s Office.
Louisiana already has municipal elections scheduled for March 20 and April 24. Holding the special elections on the same day as those that are already planned should save the state money, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
But pushing possible runoff elections until April could put Louisiana down two of its six House members as Congress makes crucial decisions on COVID-19 relief and vaccine distribution over the next three months.
Because voting could be taking place before the pandemic has abated, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has proposed leaving the same expanded options for absentee voting in place as were available in November. But Ardoin is not recommending the additional days of early, in-person voting that were held during the fall elections, said his spokesman Tyler Brey.
Ardion’s spring election plan must be approved by the governor and Louisiana Legislature before it goes into place. The expanded absentee ballot options for COVID-19 were a source of political friction earlier this year.
Edwards refused to sign off on an election plan that didn’t include most of them. Ultimately, a federal judge forced Ardoin to offer expanded absentee voting due to the pandemic. Ardoin and Attorney General Jeff Landry are appealing that decision.
Several candidates — including Democratic state Sens. Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson — are expected to file to run for Richmond’s seat.
Letlow also beat out a crowded field of candidates this year to win the 5th Congressional District slot, which is being vacated by retiring Congressman Ralph Abraham. He won a runoff election with over 60 percent of the vote against state Rep. Lance Harris, a fellow Republican, Dec. 5.
When contacted Wednesday, Harris would not say whether he would run again for Congress.
“To talk about politics right now would be the most inappropriate thing I could ever imagine,” Harris wrote in a text reply to the Illuminator. “It’s time to pray for his wife and his two young children. It’s not a time for politics.”
Letlow’s district covers a sprawling 24 parishes and includes Monroe, Alexandria, Opelousas and Jackson. It is mostly rural and one of the poorest congressional districts in the country.
Richmond’s district is centered around New Orleans and, to a lesser extent, Baton Rouge. It is majority African American and the only solidly Democratic congressional seat in the state.