A cancer-stricken woman with no hair appears on the cover of the latest political advertisement mailed to homes in Gloucester County.
"Every 69 seconds a woman dies of breast cancer," states the ad, which arrived at homes the last few days. Then comes the zinger: "So why would Larry Wallace and Vince Nestore's Republican cronies in Trenton cut lifesaving cancer screening programs?"
"It's despicable," said Larry Wallace, whose 9-year-old son died of brain cancer in 1999, soon after his 55-year-old mother succumbed to the disease.
In the campaign for two seats on the Gloucester County freeholder board, Wallace said that his opponents, Heather Simmons and Robert Zimmerman, are saying that he and Nestore don't "care about cancer and people who get affected by cancer."
Besides, freeholders have no control over state funding issues.
"In my humble opinion, this is an issue that's very personal and the type of garbage people don't want to hear about in a campaign," said Wallace, 48, of Woolwich, owner of a dental management practice. "To imply we are somehow cold or uncaring to people who have cancer, knowing I had a 9-year-old son I had to bury, is crossing the line."
Wallace attended several freeholder meetings in 2007 to protest a Mullica Hill bypass that took a vacant piece of the Holy Name of Jesus Cemetery, where his son is buried. His interaction with the board later inspired his candidacy.
Nestore, 48, a physical education teacher from Deptford, was equally upset.
"You shouldn't make someone's sickness a political issue," he said, noting that his 19-year-old fiancee died of leukemia soon after they graduated from high school. "It's still very, very painful to this day."
Simmons, a public relations consultant from Glassboro, and Zimmerman, a police captain from Mantua, did not return calls for comment on the mailer.
Justin Kolman, executive director of the Gloucester County Democratic Committee, issued this response on their behalf: "The Republicans should redirect their outrage at their own party's leadership, which has steadfastly refused to listen to commonsense ways to restore critical women's health funding. Because of Republican Party leadership, thousands of women will lose access to basic medical care. . . . That is the unfortunate truth."
Bill Quinn, spokesman for the state Treasury Department, said the budget adopted by the Legislature last summer cut nearly $7.5 million from funds that were allocated to family planning and women's health clinics. Later, Gov. Christie vetoed a bill that would have restored those funds.
But Quinn said that the administration estimates that many women can get the services from local and federal health clinics, along with private health centers.
Dave Ferrucci, the executive GOP director for campaigns in Gloucester County, said that the mailers were unfair because the freeholders have no say in the state budget.
"What we have is basically guilt by association," he said. "The Democratic Party is trying to tie [Wallace and Nestore] to what is an unpopular vote and budget in Trenton."
The Democrats are "pushing emotional buttons," instead of campaigning on the issues, Ferrucci said.
In a recent mailer, the Republicans depicted their opponents as windup cartoon characters who are ready to follow the orders of a "political machine." The Democrat "bosses" who have controlled the board for more than a dozen years have "handpicked" their candidates, it says.
In turn, the Democrats have aired television ads that depict cigar-smoking, ascot-wearing Republicans who support tax breaks for millionaires and who have portraits of Wallace and Nestore above their fireplace.
"We kind of giggled at those ads and enjoyed some of their other messages tying us to a millionaire's tax and a supposed secret millionaire club in Gloucester County," Wallace said. "But this latest mailer is disturbing."