Recently he announced that he will resign as freeholder director by the end of the year, but the Republican freeholder candidates contend that he and the Democratic "political machine" would continue to influence the county agenda.
Larry Wallace and Vince Nestore Jr. say their Democratic opponents, Robert Zimmerman and Heather Simmons, would be little more than rubber stamps for a machine responsible for wasteful spending and rampant patronage.
Simmons and Zimmerman did not respond to calls and e-mails requesting an interview to discuss their credentials and issues. Justin Kolman, who works for the county Democratic Committee, e-mailed an offer to take questions on their behalf.
"Someone will respond," he said.
Last week, Kolman sent their biographies and a four-paragraph position statement that acknowledges the issue raised by Republicans.
"We are independent thinkers who will make the hard decisions and will apply our backgrounds to the freeholder board to make sure that government lives within its means," the statement begins.
Literature handed out by Simmons and Zimmerman also does not mention specific issues. There are quotes about "hard decisions" and "improving the quality of life in Gloucester County," along with detailed resumés. Their slogan is: "New Leadership for a Better Gloucester County."
Simmons, of Glassboro, is a public relations consultant whose company, Heather Simmons Communications, promotes educational institutions and nonprofit organizations in numerous news releases sent to media outlets. Gloucester County College, which receives funding from the freeholders, has used her services. She is a newcomer to politics.
Zimmerman, a Mantua Township committeeman and former president of the town's school board, is a police captain in Pitman.
In March, the two were selected by a Democratic executive committee that was then headed by party chairman Michael Angelini. Incumbents Joe Brigandi Jr. and Jean DuBois said they wanted to spend more time with family and would not run for reelection Nov. 2.
Angelini, who is under investigation for pension abuse, later resigned as chairman and was replaced by State Sen. Fred Madden, who represents Gloucester County.
Madden described the Democratic candidates as "intelligent and well-educated" and said they "have a lot of passion" for government work.
He said last week that he was unaware they were unavailable for an interview and promised to try to get in touch with them.
Subsequent calls to the candidates also were not returned.
Sweeney did not return calls for this article either.
The Republicans are fielding Wallace, of Woolwich, who owns a dental-management company, and Nestore, a Deptford resident and physical education teacher and soccer coach in Franklin Township.
This is Wallace's third bid for a freeholder seat, after losing a GOP primary last year and the 2008 general election against Sweeney and two other incumbents. Nestore has never run for office before.
The Republicans say they want an "independent audit" to find budget cuts, an end to benefits and pensions paid to part-timers, and a policy to keep freeholders and county employees from holding multiple public jobs.
In their e-mailed statement, Simmons and Zimmerman said: "We will cut the size of government, hold the line on taxes, and focus on jobs and the economy. . . . We will eliminate government positions [and] promote economic development to attract businesses to our region so that our residents have good-paying jobs with benefits."
Beyond that, they were "unavailable" to respond to questions - including what they might cut from the budget - according to the e-mail.
"It is unusual for a candidate to simply not speak with the media, because generally, someone running for elected office wants to get their message out," said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.
But it's not uncommon, he added, "for a campaign to be devoid of issues" when candidates are "confident of victory or are in a tight race and don't want to upset anyone" or give their opponents fodder for criticism.
So far, the Democrats have raised more money than the Republicans, with nearly $277,000 in their war chest, according to the latest report filed with the state Elections Law Enforcement Commission. The county GOP has raised about $11,000 and has less than half the registered voters the Democrats have.
The combined funds rank fifth in the state in size, indicating the county freeholder race is one of the more competitive contests, according to the commission. The spending probably will go up when Gov. Christie appears at a fund-raiser for the county GOP on Oct. 22.
"Voters are not happy with the Gloucester County freeholders and what they are doing," Wallace said.
He did not say what programs he might cut, but he said he would start by privatizing the county-run golf course and equestrian park, which he called "money pits."
Nestore said he became a candidate because he was "fed up with the political machine handpicking career politicians."
Voters, he said, are upset that a state Superior Court judge had to appoint "a baby-sitter" to monitor the freeholders' meetings after the board violated the state's Sunshine Law by conducting business behind closed doors.
"The transparency thing is really resonating," he said.
In a previous interview, Simmons said that she felt the freeholder board was trying to correct the problem by appointing a "compliance officer" to make sure the law was followed and to add "a layer of transparency and accountability" to county government.
But Judge Francis Orlando Jr. later found the compliance officer was not impartial - his law firm worked for the county - and appointed a monitor to report to him.
The Republicans have their own share of problems. Unlike the Democrats, who had an uncontested primary, the GOP primary in June was a face-off among four slates, including candidates from the party's right wing and a few rivals of the current GOP leadership. After it ended, some opponents would not pledge their support to Wallace and Nestore.
Contact staff writer Jan Hefler at 856-779-3224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.