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Republican Julia Letlow wins Louisiana congressional seat originally won by her late husband, CBS News projects

CBS News projects that Republican Julia Letlow will win the special election for Louisiana's 5th District, taking over the would-be seat of her late husband, Luke Letlow, who died of COVID-19 complications days before he could be sworn in. 

She will be the first Republican woman to represent Louisiana in Congress, and will boost the number of Republican women currently serving in the house to a record 31.

"This is an incredible moment and it is truly hard to put into words," Letlow said in a statement Saturday night. "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."

Letlow was endorsed by both former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence, as well as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Whip Steve Scalise. Potential 2024 Republican candidate and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley also endorsed her. 

Her husband was on track to succeed Representative Ralph Abraham for the large northeastern Louisiana seat after he won the GOP runoff in early December 2020. He had previously worked as a campaign manager and chief of staff to Abraham. He died December 29, 2020 at 41 years old.

In her campaign announcement, Letlow said she was "running to continue the mission Luke started — to stand up for our Christian values, to fight for our rural agriculture communities, and to deliver real results to move our state forward." She has signaled that she would run to keep the seat in 2022.

In Louisiana's 2nd District, CBS News projects that Democratic State Senators Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson are heading towards a runoff on April 24, after no candidate got a majority of the vote. The winner will succeed Democrat Cedric Richmond, who was appointed by President Biden as a White House senior adviser and director of the Office of Public Engagement.

Carter was endorsed by Richmond and has played up his connection to the White House adviser. House Majority Whip James Clyburn has also backed Carter.

"When you think of 535 members of Congress and they're all competing for resources, those who have better relationships are those who have a better shot at bringing resources home," Carter said after the runoff was set. 

Peterson was endorsed by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, women's group Emily's List and the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC. She would be the first Black woman to represent Louisiana if elected. 

"A substantial number of voters decided today that they want bold and courageous leadership, they don't want the status quo," Peterson said Saturday night.  

Both ran for this Congressional seat in 2006. Activist Democrat Gary Chambers came in third.

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