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Rep.-elect Luke Letlow dies from Covid complications days before being sworn in

Luke Letlow, a Republican elected to represent Louisiana's 5th District, was 41 years old.

A congressman-elect from Louisiana died Tuesday evening from complications of Covid-19 days before he was set to be sworn into office, his spokesman announced. He was 41.

Luke Letlow, a Republican, was elected to represent Louisiana's 5th Congressional District in a runoff this month.

A spokesman, Andrew Bautsch, confirmed Letlow's death at Ochsner-LSU Health Shreveport on Letlow's Facebook page.

"The family appreciates the numerous prayers and support over the past days but asks for privacy during this difficult and unexpected time," Bautsch said in a statement. "A statement from the family along with funeral arrangements will be announced at a later time."

Letlow is survived by his wife, Julia Barnhill Letlow, and two young children, Bautsch said.

He died less than a week before the new Congress is to be sworn in on Jan. 3.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards urged people in the state to pray for Letlow's family, and he will order flags to be flown at half-staff on the day of his funeral.

Letlow announced Dec. 18 that he had tested positive for Covid-19 and tweeted days later that he was being treated at a hospital. On Wednesday, his representative said he had been transferred to another hospital, where he was stable in the intensive care unit.

Louisiana's congressional delegation, including House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, said in a statement that "we are devastated to hear of Luke Letlow's passing."

"Luke had such a positive spirit, and a tremendously bright future ahead of him," the delegation of representatives and senators said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., tweeted: "Our hearts break tonight as we process the news of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow's passing."

Letlow also worked for former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who tweeted that he and his wife, Supriya, were heartbroken.

"Luke has been a good friend for so many years, and we are saddened he was taken from us at such a young age," Jindal wrote. "We had talked in recent days about his excitement about the opportunity to serve the people of the 5th Congressional district, and his love and devotion for Julia and their kids."

"I first met Luke when he was still a college student, and spent countless hours with him in his truck driving the back roads of Louisiana," Jindal wrote. "His passion for service has been a constant throughout his life."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement: "Tonight, the United States House of Representatives sadly mourns the passing of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow."

Letlow beat fellow Republican Lance Harris in a runoff election this month, 62 percent to 38 percent, according to the secretary of state's website.

He was chief of staff for Rep. Ralph Abraham, whom he was elected to succeed in Congress, Edwards said. Abraham announced that he was not running for re-election in February.

There have been 304,000 confirmed or probable Covid-19 cases in Louisiana and almost 7,400 deaths, according to the state Health Department.

Nationwide, there have been more than 19.5 million cases, with more than 338,000 deaths, according to an NBC News count of reports.

A spokesman for Edwards said he will call for a special election to fill the seat, which will coincide with the election to fill Rep. Cedric Richmond's seat as the Louisiana Democrat, who also tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this month, is joining President-elect Joe Biden's administration.

The Louisiana secretary of state's office said the primary is tentatively set for March 20 and the general election on April 24 if necessary.