Swiggart endorses Warnke for Merced County sheriff

06/17/2014 8:12 PM

06/17/2014 8:13 PM

The man who came in third earlier this month in the Merced County sheriff’s primary election has endorsed one of the front-runners in the race.

Frank Swiggart, 47, finished a strong third in the four-way race, finishing with more than 26 percent of the vote behind Pat Lunney and Vern Warnke.

Swiggart on Monday formally endorsed Warnke, the retired sheriff’s sergeant who finished first on the June 3 ballot.

“I think Vern is the guy who’ll most likely be able to make the most immediate impact, to make the changes we need to make the quickest,” Swiggart said in an interview.

Warnke, 55, finished with 34.9 percent of the vote. Lunney, 66, a veteran law enforcement administrator, was a close second with 32.32 percent. Livingston City Councilman Jim Soria finished a distant fourth, collecting 6.4 percent of the vote.

Swiggart, who is also a veteran sheriff’s sergeant, cited Warnke’s history with the Sheriff’s Department and his endorsement from the Deputy Sheriff’s Association as key reasons for believing Warnke would “have the best chance of making the needed changes.”

Lunney has been endorsed by the correctional officers union.

“I’ll obviously support whoever becomes the next sheriff,” Swiggart said.

Nearly 300 people work for the department, which has a budget of more than $43 million.

Warnke said he was “honored” to have Swiggart’s endorsement. Lunney said he hoped to speak with Swiggart before making any comment on the endorsement.

Swiggart focused on many of the same issues during the race as the front-runners, including gang suppression, agricultural crimes and concealed-weapons permit access. He also spoke frequently of the need to prepare for drought-related crimes such as squatting and food and water thefts.

Swiggart said he was disappointed with the race’s outcome but was quick to thank his supporters. He said he had not considered whether he would seek the office again in the future.

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