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Rep. Franklin Foil, R -Baton Rouge

Longtime Republican Rep. Franklin Foil won election to the state Senate during Saturday's runoff, defeating Democrat Beverly Brooks Thompson following a contentious race whose unexpected twists included a hand recount in the general and attempted interference from an influential conservative donor.

Foil and another Republican contender, Rep. Steve Carter — both longtime state representatives — were tied after the general election until a recount revealed Foil received four more votes, allowing him to advance to the runoff against Thompson for the Senate District 16 seat. 

Complete but unofficial returns from the Secretary of State showed Foil with 58 percent of the vote.

After the Oct. 12 primary, but before the recount results had been announced, Baton Rouge businessman and conservative donor Lane Grigsby offered to support Foil in a future run for judge if he ceded the second-place spot to Carter. He said the offer was an attempt to avoid the possible three-way runoff, which would have risked splitting the Republican vote and flipping the seat into Democratic hands. Foil declined.

Foil's win means more of the same for the south Baton Rouge district, which has elected a Republican state senator fail since 1987, including U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy and the current Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne. 

Five candidates — four of them Republicans — initially competed to represent the district, which covers the southeastern part of East Baton Rouge Parish. Republican Sen. Dan Claitor is stepping down due to term limits after serving in the statehouse for more than a decade.

Claitor endorsed Foil as his successor.

Foil avoided taking a side in the incorporation of St. George during the months leading up to the general election, when voters in his district approved the proposal. That decision is now being challenged in the courts. 

He has served in the Louisiana House since 2008 and has said his longtime priority is representing those with disabilities. His record includes sponsoring legislation mandating health insurance coverage for children on the autism spectrum. He also authored a bill that creates a tax-free savings account to trim financial concerns for those with disabilities and their families.

Foil is also an attorney whose practice is focused in part on estate planning for those with special needs.

Debate during the campaign often focused on traffic and drainage in the district. Foil said a new bridge across the Mississippi River should be the top priority for improving traffic.

Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.