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Republican Julia Letlow wins special congressional election in Louisiana, NBC News projects

Two Democrats are headed to a runoff in another district, competing to succeed Biden adviser Cedric Richmond in Congress.
Julia Letlow speaks to members of the press at the Louisiana State Archives after signing up to run for the 5th District seat on Jan. 21, 2021, in Baton Rouge.
Julia Letlow speaks to reporters at the State Archives after having signed up to run for Louisiana's 5th Congressional District seat in Baton Rouge on Jan. 21.Brett Duke / AP file

WASHINGTON — Republican Julia Letlow has won a special election Saturday in Louisiana, NBC News projected, while Democratic state Sens. Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson advanced to a runoff election in another district.

Voters in the state are filling two vacant House seats in the first special congressional elections of the year.

Letlow ran to replace her late husband, Luke, who was elected in November but died of complications from Covid-19 in December.

Endorsed by former President Donald Trump, Letlow had been favored to win Louisiana's heavily Republican 5th Congressional District, and she managed to avoid a runoff by surpassing the 50 percent threshold.

Trump, through his PAC, released a statement Saturday afternoon urging voters to turn out for Letlow, saying "she will never disappoint" and "is outstanding and so necessary to help save our Second Amendment, at the Border, and for our Military and Vets."

On Sunday, Trump released a statement congratulating her on the win. "I am thrilled for Julia and the entire Letlow family. Luke is looking down proudly from above," he said.

The other race, in Louisiana's majority Black 2nd Congressional District, which stretches from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, is headed to a runoff April 24.

The contest could offer clues about the mood in the Democratic Party, especially among Black Democrats, a few months into President Joe Biden's term.

Fifteen candidates ran to replace former Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat who left Congress in January to take a senior role in Biden's White House, and none were expected to cross the 50 percent threshold to avoid next month's runoff.

Richmond and other Democratic Party power brokers are backing Carter, a moderate, but he faces stiff competition from Carter Peterson, who is running as a progressive.

Carter Peterson, who was until last year chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, has been endorsed by the women's group Emily's List, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and Our Revolution, which spun off Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign.

Carter and Carter Peterson — who are not related — had both raised about half a million dollars for the race as of the end of February, according to campaign finance reports, while activist Gary Chambers raised over $300,000, with the rest of the field far behind.

The district, which is more than two-thirds Black, is heavily Democratic. Richmond won re-election last year by nearly 50 percentage points over his closest Republican rival.

The next special congressional election is scheduled June 1 in a safe Democratic district in New Mexico, where candidates are vying to replace former Rep. Deb Haaland, who was confirmed as interior secretary Monday.