A three-way runoff doesn’t happen every day, but for a few days it looked like that’s what the voters of Baton Rouge’s Senate District 16 faced.
Two Republicans, Franklin Foil and Steve Carter, were vying for second place, and tied; a third candidate, Beverly Brooks Thompson, a Democrat, led in the primary and won a place on the Nov. 16 ballot.
Under state law, that would set the stage for a rare three-person runoff, erasing the requirement that the winner get a majority of the votes.
Republicans feared that the GOP candidates might again split the vote, setting the stage for a Democrat to triumph in a Republican-leaning district, perhaps with less than 40 percent of the vote.
That was apparently too much for Lane Grigsby, an impatient Republican millionaire and frequent campaign donor accustomed to being the man behind the curtain.
Rather than letting the electoral process play out in an orderly way, Grigsby rushed in clumsily, assuming that he, rather than the voters, knew what was best for the 16th District.
“I’m a kingmaker. I talk from the throne,” Grigsby explained.
Grigsby contacted outgoing Sen. Dan Claitor, who backs Foil, and offered to support Foil in potential future races for judge or other offices if Foil would pull out of the Senate contest.
Claitor, a three-term senator and former prosecutor, said he was appalled at the conversation and did not pass the offer along to Foil.
Such a juicy political story as Grigsby trying to fix the result did not stay secret for long. And Grigsby’s comments suggest he still does not know what he did wrong.
“I’m not offering (Foil) a judgeship,” Grigsby said Wednesday. “I can’t. I don’t exactly have the authority to do that. What I’m saying is 'If you make a sacrifice for the state of Louisiana, I’ll make sure that sacrifice is recognized.'”
Foil declined to drop out of the race, and Carter, supported by Grigsby, also indicated he would stay in.
Grigsby’s gambit backfired a second time when a Thursday recount showed that Foil actually finished ahead of Carter by four votes, and is the Republican runoff candidate.
That means that Grigsby could have simply kept his mouth shut for five days and the threat of a Republican split would have vanished anyhow.
Voters are cynical enough these days without self-proclaimed kingmakers like Lane Grigsby treating candidates like pawns on his personal chessboard.