Republican Julia Letlow won a special election Saturday to fill the seat won last year by her now-late husband, who died in December from Covid.

She took 62 percent of the vote in the 12-way race, a commanding victory that cleared the majority threshold needed to avoid a runoff. Her election brings the number of Republican women in Congress to 31 — a stunning turnaround from the end of last cycle, when there were just 13.

Letlow’s victory was not unexpected. She dominated the field in fundraising and endorsements since launching her campaign. Former President Donald Trump endorsed her campaign in March, and she is also supported by Winning for Women Action Fund. She raised more than $680,000 as of the end of February; no other candidate raised more than $70,000.

Letlow has a Ph.D. in communication from the University of South Florida and works as an executive at the University of Louisiana Monroe. She made the loss of her husband, Luke Letlow, who was elected but died before being sworn in, a central theme of her campaign.

“While losing Luke has been devastating, I know that two things can be true at the same time,” she said in her campaign bio spot. “A person can be full of grief while still having hope for the future.”

The district leans heavily Republican and spans the northeast corner of the state, including the cities of Monroe and Alexandria. Letlow campaigned on a vow to uphold conservative Christian values and protect unborn children and the right to bear arms.

The special election win is an added bonus for the coalition of groups and operatives who banded together to increase the dwindling number of Republican women in the House. There were just 13 at the end of the 2018 cycle, and two of those members retired rather than seek reelection.

But in 2020, all 11 female GOP incumbents won reelection, and 19 new members joined them. The two House races that remained undecided into 2021 were both ultimately won by Republican women: Reps. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa).

Once she is sworn in, the House will have 212 Republicans and 220 Democrats with three vacancies. Louisiana hosted another special congressional election on Saturday in a safe Democratic seat that former Rep. Cedric Richmond vacated to join the Biden administration. Three Democrats were competing for the top two spots in the runoff, scheduled for April 24.

New Mexico, Ohio and Texas will also host specials this year to fill seats held by the new Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge and the late Rep. Ron Wright (R-Texas), who died of Covid. Wright’s widow, Susan Wright, is running for his seat, along with more than 20 other candidates.

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