The first public debate of the six candidates vying for the state Senate seat to represent District 22, hosted by the Tea Party of South Louisiana, will be held Wednesday.

The event will be held at the Sliman Theater in New Iberia. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. giving voters an opportunity to meet the candidates. The debate will begin at 7 p.m.

All six candidates have said they plan to attend.

State Rep. Simone Champagne, R-Jeanerette, New Iberia lawyer David Groner, no party, Tea Party activist Ruben LeBlanc of New Iberia, no party, State Rep. Fred Mills, R-Parks, New Iberia insurance agent Armond Schwing, a Republican and Jeanerette-based helicopter crop duster Ken Squires, also a Republican, all have qualified to run for the seat.

Tea Party member and former congressional candidate Kristian Magar said the debate format will include opening statements by each candidate, a series of questions on topics including taxes, spending, the state budget, education and the appropriate role of government and a “rapid-fire” yes-no-agree-disagree series of questions.

“We are going to make this event interactive for the audience,” Magar said.

“We felt it was important for each of the candidates to have the opportunity to state their positions in their own words so the people of the district could make the best decision possible when they vote in the special election.”

Magar also said a “straw poll” will be taken of the crowd to find out who voters are leaning towards after hearing the presentations from each candidate.

Early voting for the special election began Saturday and will continue until Jan. 15. The primary election will be held Jan. 22 with a runoff, if necessary, scheduled for Feb. 19.

Political consultant Travis Taylor of Lafayette, helping with the Tea Party debate, said the group is hoping for a great turnout.

“This is a very important debate for the people of the district. With redistricting coming up, people deserve to know where the candiates stand,” Taylor said.

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