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A Train Platform

With so many major candidates dropping out of the Oct. 4 primary election campaign for governor recently, New Orleans entrepreneur Fred Robertson sent out a news release saying he "will not get out of the race under any circumstances." Robertson, a minor candidate who announced he is running on April 18, says no other candidate is addressing the "critical national issue" that "dragged" him into the governor's race in the first place -- high-speed train technology.

"Establishment of the high-speed train industry here is the only credible path to true prosperity, jobs and lasting economic development in Louisiana," Robertson says. High-speed trains would exceed 150 miles per hour, solve the metro area's traffic snarls, and make Houston an hour-and-a-half trip, he says. "It is not the same as light-rail," Robertson adds, referring to the proposed train system linking New Orleans to Louis Armstrong Airport in Kenner, which recently received state funding for more study.

Robertson indicates his campaign will rail against wasteful federal government spending on Amtrak, the federal transportation "bureaucracy," and the "politicians who refinance their reelection with contributions from engineers and consultants pocketing federal funds."

A first-time candidate for public office, Robertson acknowledges that most train issues fall under the Congress, but says the governor's race now is the best way to call attention to the need for a heavy rail system in New Orleans. Robertson says he has been interested in heavy rail since 1987, when he wrote a paper on the subject for a master's degree course in urban planning at the University of New Orleans. Robertson's campaign can be contacted at or by phone at 861-2003.


Lee Endorses

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee is taking an interest in a number of campaigns -- in addition to his own re-election bid.

Lee, who is seeking his seventh four-year term since he was first elected sheriff in 1979, says he is backing former U.S. Rep. Buddy Leach for governor and Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Charles Foti for state attorney general. However, Lee is not ready to announce his candidate for lieutenant governor or other statewide offices.

"I have my own race, so I don't want to say too much about who I am endorsing for what because there ain't no sense in me making a bunch of enemies," the sheriff said.

Closer to home, Lee last week announced he would support businessman Eric Skremetta's campaign for a newly configured House District 81 seat. Lee appears in television spots for Skremetta that began airing over the weekend.

The sheriff says he also is supporting state Rep. Jennifer Sneed, R-Metairie, who is leaving her old House District 81 seat to run for the District 6 seat on the Jefferson Parish Council. "If I get involved in the other (six council) races, I'll make up my mind later," Lee said. "I don't mean to be selfish, but I'm looking out for my ass first."

Lee says his only opponent so far is an ex-employee, former Lt. Valinicia Renee Washington, who the sheriff defeated in 1999, by 78 percent to 22 percent.

The sheriff predicts Washington will get 25 to 30 percent of the vote in the Oct. 4 primary. "She got the black vote last time, and she will probably get all of the black vote this time."

But Washington, who left the sheriff's office after more than 21 years to run for the sheriff's job in 1999, says her old boss is wrong about her voter demographics. "My largest bloc of votes was caucasians in Terrytown, Metairie and Marrero; I was surprised myself."

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