Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow’s death brought us a grim reminder on how COVID-19 can stop even the most vibrant people.
The Republican from the Richland Parish community of Start was set to begin his inaugural term this week as representative of the state’s congressional 5th District. Republicans and Democrats alike mourned the loss of this ambitious 41-year-old, but talk behind the scenes also centers around who will fill his seat.
A special election for his seat will coincide with a March 20 election to replace 2nd District Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat, who will serve in the cabinet of President-elect Joe Biden.
The election to fill those two seats will put Louisiana in the national spotlight as the GOP tries to cut its losses on Capitol Hill.
It may open the door for the return of a once-prominent official on the Louisiana political scene to vie for Letlow’s seat.
How many of you remember Bobby Jindal?
Most of you likely know him as the predecessor to Gov. John Bel Edwards, but Jindal has been largely out of the public eye.
The state’s fiscal downfall and his hatchet job on state colleges and hospitals drew the scorn of Republicans and Democrats alike.
Although he has not been mentioned as a prospect, it would not come as a surprise – nor would it mark the strangest comeback.
For example, Richard Nixon lost to John F. Kennedy in 1960 and two years later lost the California gubernatorial race to Edmund Brown. He then was elected president.
The third term of Edwin Edwards ended in 1988 amid one of the worst economic tumbles in Louisiana history. Four years later, voters welcomed him back after a win over David Duke.
Edwards and Duke reached the runoff, which led EWE to victory. Some voters likely held their nose when they voted for Edwards, but the bumper sticker said it all: “Vote for the crook … it’s important.”
Political reputation aside, many voters accepted that at least they knew what they would get.
Experience and name familiarity carry plenty of weight in politics. It worked for Nixon and it helped Edwards.
Jindal has the same inside track. His three-year term as Louisiana congressman for the state’s 1st District ended when he became governor in January 2008.
No word has circulated thus far on Jindal’s intentions, but he has probably received several phone calls from prominent Republicans on Capitol Hill.
He has the experience and the name recognition – both which could lead him to victory if he runs for the seat Letlow never officially occupied.
Granted, it wouldn’t be a cake walk for Jindal.
He became a target of criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike when he spent much of his second term either in an ill-fated run for the White House or stumping for congressional candidates from coast to coast.
If he runs, he may ask them to return the favor. Considering the number of seats Democrats gained in November, the Republicans probably will return the favor for Jindal.
As for Letlow’s legacy, he served under Jindal, so a connection exists. In a time when Republicans seek to cut their losses in Washington, Jindal could figure as their winning card.
His chances would depend on how voters would perceive him five years after he left office. They may see him in a “what’s old is new again” scenario, or as the man who gutted the state’s colleges and hospitals amid his presidential aspirations.
If some constituents forget that side of Jindal, it’s a surefire bet Democrats will refreshen their memories.
Jindal was not popular with Republicans or Democrats when he left office, but he has remained conspicuously quiet since he left the Governor’s Mansion at the “ripe, old age” of 45.
He has not commanded space on the front pages of newspapers in the last five years, and his name seldom comes up in political discussions these days.
But considering what’s at stake for Republicans this year in Washington, that could change soon.