Republican gubernatorial contender Eddie Rispone on Monday disputed charges by Gov. John Bel Edwards that controversial GOP donor Lane Grigsby is a "puppet master" who controls Rispone.
"No one controls Lane, no one controls me either," Rispone said in an interview.
He also said that, while Grigsby made a mistake in intervening in a state Senate race, he remains a friend.
"I don't throw my friends out because he made a mistake," Rispone said. "I hope my friends do the same for me."
The controversy stems from the fallout over what was temporarily a tie among the top two Republican contenders, Franklin Foil and Steve Carter, in the race for a southeast Baton Rouge Senate seat held by Sen. Dan Claitor.
Before a recount settled the issue, Grigsby approached Claitor in a bid to get Foil to drop out of the Senate race in exchange for Grigsby backing Foil in a future bid for a judgeship.
Grigsby said he was concerned that if Foil, Carter and Democratic candidate Beverly Brooks Thompson all appeared on the Nov. 16 runoff ballot Foil and Carter could split the Republican vote and allow Thompson to win in a GOP-leaning district with a plurality.
Claitor, who is being forced out by term limits, said he considered Grigsby's offer out of bounds and never relayed it to Foil.
Grigsby said at the time he was not offering Foil a judgeship but would remember that Foil had made a sacrifice if he dropped out of the Senate race.
Foil, who said he was not interested in the offer, was announced as the second-place finisher on Thursday after a partial recount, setting up a runoff contest with Thompson.
But the governor branded Grigsby's offer illegal and said his political alliance with Rispone is dangerous.
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"If that's the guy that Eddie Rispone is hooked to the hip with, it speaks volumes about how dangerous Eddie Rispone is for the state of Louisiana," Edwards said.
Rispone disputed that view.
"He doesn't speak for me and I don't speak for him," he said of Grigsby.
Asked if he thought Grigsby's offer was a mistake, Rispone said, "Of course. Everybody does."
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"You don't do that, you know?" he said.
"You just don't do that. I am sure he has heard from a lot of people, 'Lane what in the hell were you thinking?'" Rispone said.
"If you have been around Lane long enough, he will do some things. He is impulsive and stuff like that."
However, Rispone said he has heard the same charge about being controlled by Grigsby since he entered the race for governor about a year ago.
Rispone is a Baton Rouge businessman and co-founder of ISC Contractors.
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He has mostly paid for his own campaign, including about $11 million in the primary.
Grigsby is co-founder of Cajun Industries, an industrial contractor.
He is one of the founders of the anti-Edwards group Truth in Politics, which has blasted the governor in TV ads.
Grigsby was also among supporters at Rispone's election-night watch party Oct. 12 when Rispone qualified for the runoff against Democrat Edwards, capturing 27% of the vote to 47% for Edwards.
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"Lane and I and many other people have worked very hard to turn our state around," Rispone said.
"And yes we have disagreed on things and we just move on," he said.
"What I do know about him is he will put his effort and money where his mouth is, and not a lot of people are that way."
"Lane is Lane. No one controls Lane. No one controls me either, ok? He has his opinion. I have mine."