Jan. 4, 2011 05:51 PM
Iberia and St. Martin Parish voters will have three opportunities to see state Senate District 22 candidates square off before the Jan. 22 special election.

Iberia and St. Martin Parish voters will have three opportunities to see state Senate District 22 candidates square off before the Jan. 22 special election. The Tea Party of South Louisiana is hosting the first debate Jan. 12 at the Sliman Theatre in New Iberia beginning at 7 p.m. The organization's president, Kristian Magar - the third place finisher in last year's 3rd Congressional District race - says all six candidates have committed to attending. The candidates will answer questions on topics including taxes, spending, the state budget, education and the appropriate role of government. Additional topics will be addressed in a rapid fire yes/no, agree/disagree series of questions. Magar says he also plans to take a straw poll of the crowd following the debate and send out results the next day.

The Tea Party debate will be followed by two other candidate forums: the St. Martin Parish Republican Executive Committee will host its event on Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. at the St. Martin Parish Council office, while the Iberia Parish Chamber of Commerce has scheduled its forum for the next day, Jan. 18, at 6:30 p.m. at the Sliman Theatre.

Six candidates are vying for the District 22 state senate seat. They include two Republican state representatives, Simone Champagne of Jeanerette and Fred Mills of Parks. The race's two other Republicans are Armond Schwing of Schwing Insurance in Iberia Parish and crop-duster Ken Squires. Two "no party" candidates, New Iberia attorney David Groner and Ruben LeBlanc, round out the field. Early voting runs Jan. 8 - 15 with the primary election on the 22nd. A runoff, if necessary, will be held Feb. 19.