As if the intrigue in the Senate District 16 race wasn’t enough—with Republican candidates Steve Carter and Franklin Foil tied for a second-place spot in the runoff, after a late-night recount of mail-in ballots erased Foil’s eight-vote lead—the story got even more unusual today, when businessman and GOP donor Lane Grigsby told Daily Report he’d offered to support Foil for a judgeship if he dropped out of the runoff to increase the chances of the seat going to a Republican.
The top vote-getter in the race is a Democrat, Beverly Brooks Thompson.
But Foil says he never spoke to Grigsby, who is backing Carter in the race, and was not aware of the offer. Rather, Grigsby reached out to Dan Claitor, the former District 16 senator, who is supporting Foil, to float the suggestion.
Claitor says he was watching TV Sunday night when Grigsby texted him and asked him to call. Claitor returned the call and says he was too disturbed by Grigsby’s offer to make Foil aware of it.
“He said, ‘we will support Foil in a judgeship’ if he agrees to step aside,” Claitor says. “He went on to say if Franklin wasn’t successful in a first attempt they would support him in a second one. I don’t know who ‘we’ is but I didn’t ask any probing questions. I listened.”
Reached this afternoon for comment, Grigsby says he was speaking only for himself and was not offering any sort of quid pro quo.
“That was the royal we,” Grigsby says. “I’m a kingmaker. I talk from the throne. But I hadn’t colluded with anybody. It was an effort on my part to resolve a dilemma that is facing the senate district I live in.”
The dilemma is the potential for a three-way runoff that could result in a Democrat winning the legislative seat long held by Republican Claitor. Though the Secretary of State initially reported that Foil had nudged out Carter by eight votes, election officials later said they accidentally scanned a batch of absentee ballots twice and had to rescan all mail-in ballots. The second scan resulted in a loss of several votes to all three candidates, but gave Carter a net gain, tying him with Foil.
Claitor, who campaigned for Foil in the primary, says he was concerned Grigsby’s offer was potentially illegal, which is why he wanted to keep Foil as far removed from it as possible.
“I’m familiar with the Matassa case and I do criminal defense so I didn’t communicate anything to Franklin,” Claitor says. “I thought it was inappropriate, possibly illegal, and I am not Mr. Grigsby’s errand boy.”
Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa was indicted in 2016 on bribery charges for allegedly attempting to have a candidate drop out of a city council race in return for political favors. He was acquitted after a trial in 2018.
Grigsby says this situation was completely different.
“I never talked to Franklin Foil. I never offered Franklin Foil anything,” he says. “I only talked to people around him and offered them alternatives as they try to make decisions in their lives.”
A recount of the mail-in ballots that Foil requested will take place Thursday. Should the recount result in a clear second-place victory for Foil, Grigsby says he will do anything in his power to help Foil get elected.