Sweeney is challenging State Sen. Raymond Zane, a 28-year incumbent, for his Third District seat. Reed and Freeholder Joseph Brigandi are running for reelection against Republicans Sam Casella and Theresa Lappe.
The dispensers, almost the size of a credit card and packed with five bandages, were purchased for the county flu program that will begin in mid-October, said Chad Bruner, director of the county Health Department. They are a thank-you to residents who get free flu vaccines from the county - and not a campaign trick, he said.
Reed is freeholder liaison to the Health Department.
"If it had Brigandi's name on there, too, that might be fishy," Bruner said. "But this is just a courtesy, a calling card, to encourage people to come out every year" for their shots.
Last year, the department handed out pillboxes with the county seal and freeholder names, Sweeney said. County leaders, Democrat or Republican, have always handed out knickknacks, he said.
But Freeholder Raymond Zane 2d said he could not recall handing out anything more than blood-pressure screenings when he was liaison to the Health Department two years ago. The seniors who get free flu shots would likely prefer a lower tax rate over a campaign trinket, he said.
"This is a blatant misuse of county tax dollars, coincidentally spent just a few weeks before the election," the younger Zane said.
Casella called on the Democrats to refund county taxpayers from campaign coffers.
Reed said Republicans should look beyond politics and see the good that the flu program - and the bandages - will do for residents.
"The Republicans are always asking what we do for people in Gloucester County, and here they have an example of it," she said.
Kaitlin Gurney's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.