First Saddam, now Hitler referenced in Fayette race
UNIONTOWN - Fayette County Democratic Party Chairman Fred Lebder fired back at Commissioner Sean Cavanagh Thursday through advertisements in two area newspapers, likening the combative Cavanagh to Hitler.
"When I enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II, I faced another Hitler, his name was Adolph. ... Now, 60 years later, I am facing a similar challenge by Sean Cavanagh. I wish to make it crystal clear that nobody will intimidate me or force me to give up the Constitutional rights which I fought for and many fellow soldiers died for," stated the advertisement signed and paid for by Lebder.
Lebder admits in the advertisement that a March luncheon of incumbent row officers was held during which a slate of candidates was discussed. According to Lebder, Cavanagh "has a problem when it is someone other than his cronies" exercising their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and assembly.
Lebder, 82, was a county commissioner for 28 years before his retirement in 1995. He did not return a call to his home.
However, he was likely reacting to Cavanagh likening his leadership style to that of Saddam Hussein in Iraq after the meeting discussing the slate was disclosed in a newspaper story.
Cavanagh stressed that he never referred to Lebder as Hussein. He also insists Lebder made a much stronger association between himself and Hitler.
During an April 1 interview, Cavanagh said: "People fought and died for the right for the citizens to choose who represents them - not Fred Lebder and his hand-picked candidates. That's the kind of representation they have in Iraq where one man calls the shots."
"I never called him that (Hussein). But this (Hitler) was a direct reference," he said Thursday.
Cavanagh said he believes the advertisement shows Lebder's desperation.
"It's a desperate plea from a desperate man. I thank him for it. It proves he was for the slate, that this meeting took place, and that he's interfering in the primary. A Democratic chairman should not interfere in a primary," he said.
Cavanagh also pointed out that he and a number of a family members served in the military.
At the bottom of Lebder's advertisement is a 4-year-old photograph of some of the row officers with two spots blacked out where incumbent commissioners Ron Nehls and Vincent Vicites were seated.
After Cavanagh's severe criticism, several row officers pulled their support from the slate last month.
Sheriff Gary Brownfield said the photograph is not proof that the slate has returned.
Lebder "didn't have our permission to use that. The incumbents are all friends and we're for one another, but we have our own races to run," Brownfield said.
According to Cavanagh, his record contrasts with Lebder's so much that Lebder's favorite candidate, former state Sen. Bill Lincoln, will suffer.
"The people of Fayette County aren't buying what Lebder's selling. They're too smart for that. What did Fred do for Fayette County• He was a great politician, but a terrible leader. The Lebder-Lincoln legacy to Fayette County is crime, poverty and unemployment," Cavanagh said.
Challenger J. William Lincoln said he was not involved in the advertisement.
"I saw it for the first time today. But Sean Cavanagh dragged Fred Lebder into the race. So, to the extent that Fred Lebder is involved in the race, Sean Cavanagh has himself to blame," Lincoln said.
But Cavanagh said he's starting to see a relationship between recent vandalism of his campaign signs and Lebder's advertisement.
"I've had swastikas and little mustaches painted on my signs. Now I'm not saying (Lebder) is out there doing it, but the correlation is pretty strong," he said.