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Running to replace husband who died from Covid-19, Julia Letlow hopes to bring her own experience to Congress

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“Sure, the candidate is different than the spouse, but nothing he wasn’t used to,” said Letlow, who campaigned alongside her husband, a former Hill member, in the 24 parishes in the rural district when he ran for the safe Republican seat last year.

Under the primary system of the Louisiana jungle, candidates from all parties run together in a ballot. If no one gets the most votes, which can be hard to do with such a crowded race, the first two to get votes will move on to the second phase. Letlow raised $ 683,000 in late February, and Democrat Sandra Christophe raised the next highest amount of money, about $ 75,000.

Operating in this deeply conservative district, which covers northeastern Louisiana and extends to the tip of his boot, Letlow has garnered widespread support from prominent Republicans, not just from his home state. Former President Donald Trump backed her earlier this month, and so is he received donations of some members who voted to oust the former president, including Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House.

Letlow told CNN he would have joined the majority of the Republican House Conference to oppose January 6 presidential election certification, and supports his state party’s decision to censor the party senator Republican Bill Cassidy for his vote to condemn Trump in his ouster. test earlier this year.

After the death of her husband, Letlow received calls from Trump and President Joe Biden.

“It was special because he lost his wife and daughter in a car accident,” he said of his conversation with Biden.

“He said, ‘You know, where you sit today, I’ve sat down and I know this pain,’ and there’s nothing like talking to someone who’s been where you’ve been and who understands that pain you’re in,” Letlow said. “And so his words resonated with me on a very deep level.” He said Trump was also “thoughtful in his words,” expressing his condolences.

Unique background

While running for Congress had not been in her immediate plans, Letlow had pondered the search for public office and her husband had asked her to promise him that one day she would raise it if the opportunity arose.

“It would probably start on a slightly smaller scale,” Letlow said.

But he quickly stood out.

“From my first conversation with Julia, I knew she was exceptionally special,” said Julie Conway, executive director of VIEW PAC, which recruits and helps elect Republican women, noting her “strength, true faith, raw honesty and a genuine desire not only to fulfill Luke’s legacy, but to create his own. “

While Luke Letlow won the fifth district as head of the Cabinet of Congress replacing his retiring head, former MP Ralph Abraham Julia Letlow does not come from a traditional political background. When she was in 5th grade, she told her parents she wanted to be a college teacher.

His academic interests and personal life soon clashed. During his freshman year at the University of Louisiana Monroe, his 17-year-old brother died in a car accident. He started doing what he’s always done in the face of adversity (look for answers in books), but he couldn’t find what he needed.

“When I suffer a tragedy, I tend to immerse myself in research and literature and try to read about my experience and learn from other people who went through it, and there was not much about the pain of the brothers,” he said. . Her teachers encouraged her to try to fill that gap, and she turned her research into a master’s thesis and eventually wrote a dissertation on the loss of family members and the meaning of pain.

His academic work has been too relevant this year.

“One important thing I’m taking advantage of now is the importance of getting out of yourself when you’re in pain,” he said, pointing to his candidacy for public office.

Prior to his most recent loss, much of his professional work has been based on how to communicate pain and loss. He worked with residents and medical students at Tulane University School of Medicine on how to build relationships with patients and develop a good way to sleep in bed and sees that this ability to humanize and empathize is part of what would bring to Congress.

“When I worked with doctors, I would encourage them to, as you know, put themselves at eye level with someone, with their patient, especially when they broadcast bad news,” Letlow said, explaining how this translates into legislation. “You’ll have conversations with people you don’t always agree with. But if you can go down to eye level with someone, you know, having a cup of coffee or whatever, and talk to them first about respect and dignity. as human beings, then that goes much further. “

Hopes for Congress

Education is a top priority for Letlow, who was recently a semifinalist candidate for the presidency of her alma mater, where she has risen to the ranks of the higher education administration.

“I was able to talk about education and how it can be used as a catalyst to lift a region out of poverty,” he said, noting that his is one of the poorest congressional districts in the country. Nearly 30% of families with children are below the poverty line in the 5th district, according to the Census Bureau.

She is an advocate of rural broadband extension, noting that residents of her districts have struggled with remote learning and telecare during the pandemic and have praised her husband for introducing her to agricultural roots. of the district.

“I’m a girl from the city, if you want to call me that, I was born and raised in Monroe,” she said, adding that she married “a good country boy,” who took her to Start, Louisiana. – “where is Tim McGraw from”.

“I could have spent my whole life thinking that the products only came from the grocery store,” Letlow joked.

This year he has made a mix of virtual and face-to-face campaign events, adding that he is careful to always wear a mask around others, a practice that some members of the Republican Party Congress have resisted.

“I want to wear this mask and make sure I protect it,” she said of people in her district, noting that she and her husband always followed the guidelines of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Asked who she looks at in Congress, she pointed to Louisiana representative Garret Graves, praising her style of communication. And, she noted, many of the Republican women in Congress have also contacted, with first-year representative Ashley Hinson of Iowa who is especially helpful.

Because, even though she has seen a campaign up close before, Letlow, like other female candidates, has different questions than her husband asked.

“No one really asked Luke who would take care of his kids as long as he won,” Letlow said. “You know, I probably had to answer that question 95% of the time.”

She is not the only woman running in the seat of a spouse who died of Covid-19. In Texas’ 6th District, Susan Wright is running for her husband, the late Republican Party representative Ron Wright. who died in February.
Elected Republicans a record number of non-tenured women in the House in 2020, and Letlow would be another. But while many of these new Republican Party women are in competitive seats, Letlow’s victory in a safe red seat would help grow the number of women in the conference in the long run.

“That means you can spend a lot more time legislating and constituting the service than the campaign,” Conway said.

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