Sheriff candidates debate tonight in Atwater

Candidates for Merced County sheriff are scheduled to debate tonight in Atwater.

The public event, held by the Merced-Atwater Tea Party, is scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall at Fifth Street and Broadway Avenue in Atwater.

Four candidates are vying for the sheriff’s job: Pat Lunney, 66; Jim Soria, 45; Frank Swiggart, 47; and Vern Warnke, 55.

Tea Party Vice President Jim Price said each candidate will have time for opening and closing remarks. The remainder of the meeting will be dedicated to fielding questions from the audience.

“We’re going to try to limit each candidate’s response time to two minutes, but we hope they’ll keep it to less than that, too,” Price said.

Audience members will be asked to keep their questions brief, Price said. Each candidate will have the opportunity to respond to each question, even if the question wasn’t specifically directed to him.

“We won’t let people get into a back-and-forth argument with the candidates,” Price said.

Swiggart said he won’t be able to stay for the question-and-answer portion of the meeting because of prior fundraising commitments, and will leave after making an opening statement.

The event is free.