This month, Congressman-elect of the 5th Congressional District of Louisiana came down with COVID-19. On Dec. 29, he died from complications related to the virus. As the family mourns, the nation is left with the question: What happens now? Well, the rules of what to do in the case of a current congressman or congressman-elect dying are different for every state. What most likely will happen since Congressman-elect Luke Letlow has died would be a special election.
December has been the deadliest month for COVID-19 deaths in the United States, and our political leaders are no more immune to the novel coronavirus than we are (except for those who have already gotten the vaccine). Luke Letlow, who was only 41 years old, came down with COVID-19 earlier this month. As his condition worsened, his future constituents began to wonder what would happen if he dies.
Here’s what happens when a congressman-elect dies.
Since Congressman-elect Luke Letlow has died from this all too deadly pandemic, his constituents are wondering what happens now. He was elected in the recent November election to replace the incumbent, Rep. Ralph Abraham, who committed to only serving three terms as a congressman. Letlow, who was also a Republican, was supposed to swear into his new position this coming Sunday, Jan. 3.
Instead, Governor of Louisiana John Bel Edwards will call a special election. Special elections are called whenever there is an unexpected vacancy in office. In this case, Abraham will not continue as U.S. Representative, and the position will be left open until the special election. According to Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, this special election will most likely be combined with another special election to replace Congressman Cedric Richmond, who will be part of President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet.
There is a scheduled primary on March 20 for Louisiana, so it’s looking more and more like Governor Edwards will call the special election for March 20 as well, so that the citizens of Louisiana only need to make one trip to the polls. Congressman Abraham has shared that he will not seek reelection, but that he is looking into alternatives so that the people of his district are represented until the special election takes place.
While Congressman-elect Luke Letlow is certainly not the first to die of COVID-19 complications, it is significant as a young healthy man with lots of political potential, especially to his voters. He posted publicly on Facebook on Dec. 18 about coming down with COVID-19, but had to get hospitalized on Dec. 23. Since then, he underwent several treatments, including some of the experimental ones that President Trump needed to recover.
However, after a surgery to remove a blood clot, a common symptom for younger people who are infected with COVID-19, he suffered from a heart attack, and passed away shortly after. The congressman-elect leaves behind his wife and two young children, just exacerbating the devastation of this disease. Politicians on both sides of party lines have shared their condolences.