BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Candidate registration has opened for Louisiana’s March 20 election to fill two vacant U.S. House seats.

The New Orleans-based 2nd District seat is open after Democrat Cedric Richmond left the position to work for President Joe Biden’s administration. The 5th District seat covers rural northeast and central Louisiana. It is unfilled because Republican Luke Letlow died from COVID-19 complications before he could be sworn in to Congress.

In the 5th Congressional District, Luke Letlow's widow, Julia Letlow, intends to register for the race Thursday.

Political analyst Bernie Pinsonat says Julia Letlow is the favorite to win the 5th district race. She’s the wife of late Congressman-elect Luke Letlow.

“The reality is that the tragic loss of her husband right after he was elected, I think we are talking about the term sympathy for what she’s gone through,” said Pinsonat.

After winning a December runoff against Republican state representative Lance Harris, Luke Letlow died days before he was to be sworn in. Alexandria businessman woman Candy Christophe, a Democrat, is the only other announced candidate. But Pinsonat says Luke Letlow voters will return to the polls and vote for his wife.

“Those same supporters and that same money elected her husband, so why wouldn’t they elect her, so she’s the odds on favorite,” said Pinsonat.

The other Congressional race that will be on the ballot is the 2nd district, which covers New Orleans, portions of the River Parishes and into north Baton Rouge. Three Democratic contenders for the 2nd District seat signed up Wednesday: state Sens. Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson of New Orleans and community activist Gary Chambers of Baton Rouge.

Pinsonat says Carter and Peterson are are the two favorites to reach an April run-off.

“Why? Because they are already elected officials, the second reason they can raise money and third they are already well-known,” said Pinsonat.

New Orleans Senator Troy Carter found it significant that he qualified for this race on the same day a new president was sworn in.

“Now that’s not republican or democrat, that’s just the possibility of hope, that’s the possibility of change and the possibility of being better.”

Carter previously served in the Louisiana House of Representatives, the New Orleans City Council and he’s currently a state senator. His main opponent will be New Orleans Senator Karen Carter Peterson. The former chairperson of the Louisiana Democratic Party has served in the state legislature since 1999.

“It’s important to have someone that has relationships, who knows how to get the job done, who has experience.”

Carter says during his time in the legislature and away from public office he’s worked to change lives.

“Whether it’s minimum wage, equal pay or fighting for the opportunity for women affected by breast cancer to have reconstructive surgery and have insurance pay for it.”

Both legislators have fought to raise the minimum wage and pushed to pass equal pay legislation at the state capitol. Peterson plans to take that fight up to Washington.

“We have to increase the minimum wage so fifteen dollars is certainly what’s a starting point and I want to be able to go to Washington and fight for that, I’ve done it before.”

Baton Rouge community activist and small business owner Gary Chambers junior has also qualified for the race. Chambers says not being a career politician will benefit him.

“I think that the people want something different, our state is ranked fifty in the nation so anybody saying we’re doing a good job isn’t being honest.”

Chambers says he supports Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.

“We need the jobs of the future to come to the state of Louisiana to make sure people have jobs for the next 100 years the way the oil and gas has dropped for the last 100 years.”

 

Qualifying continues through Friday.

(Story written by MELINDA DESLATTE/AP & Jeff Palermo and Taylor Sharp/Louisiana Radio Network)