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Julia Letlow wins election, tax renewal passes in Franklinton

Dr. Julia Letlow of Start, the widow of the late congressman-elect Luke Letlow, easily won the race to replace her late husband in U.S. Congress on Saturday.

Luke Letlow, a Republican, had been elected on Dec. 5 to succeed U.S. Rep. Dr. Ralph Abraham in the 5th U.S. Congressional District, after Abraham chose not to run for re-election. Letlow died on Dec. 29 from complications related to COVID-19, before he could take office. The district includes all of Washington Parish.

A special election was called to fill the seat, and Julia Letlow — who also ran as a Republican — was the victor. She earned enough votes to avoid a runoff.

According to unofficial results from the Louisiana Secretary of State, Letlow earned 67,199 votes in the district (65 percent of the total).

Sandra “Candy” Christophe, the lone Democrat in the race, finished in second place with 28,252 votes (27 percent). Chad Conerly, a Republican, was third with 5,497 votes (5 percent).

Letlow’s outright win may have been a bit of a surprise, as there were nine Republican candidates on the ballot Saturday. Under Louisiana’s “jungle primary” rules, all candidates run together and a full majority (at least 50 percent plus one additional vote) is needed to avoid a runoff.

It was possible that the nine Republican candidates could have split the vote, leading to a runoff against Christophe, the lone Democrat candidate. However, voters appeared to coalesce around Letlow — who earned endorsements from U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, former President Donald Trump, and other state and national Republican officials.

“This is an incredible moment and it is truly hard to put into words,” Letlow said. “What was born out of the terrible tragedy of losing my husband, Luke, has become my mission in his honor to carry the torch and serve the good people of Louisiana’s 5th District. I am humbled that you would entrust me with the honor of your vote and the privilege to serve you in Congress. A simple thank you doesn’t fully encapsulate the depth of my gratitude.

“I will be a servant to the people of this district and be present across the 24 parishes. I will listen more than I speak and seek to find solutions to our region’s challenges. I will partner with those across the country who can help us capitalize on our district’s strengths and bring real results home to you. From tonight forward, I work for you and it is an honor to do so.”

Letlow received 58 percent of the vote in Washington Parish. Christophe had 30 percent, and Conerly earned 10 percent.

Also in Saturday’s election, voters in Franklinton approved the renewal of a one-cent sales tax for an additional 10 years. A total of 386 residents voted in favor of the measure (70 percent), while 162 voted against.

The unofficial turnout among parish voters in Saturday’s election was 24.8 percent.