EFLAND- More than 50 people filled the auditorium at Gravelly Hill Middle School on Friday night to hear from the candidates running to be Orange County’s next sheriff. The forum, sponsored by the Efland Ruritans and moderated by Greg Andrews, was the first time the six men have faced each other in debate.

But though the field is crowded, the discussion was calm. Better communication between law enforcement agencies and more crisis intervention training for deputies were ideas each candidate endorsed.

They all agreed that the current slate of gun laws is sufficient, and stressed they want the sheriff’s office to continue to issue concealed carry permits, rather than shifting that function to the state or federal level. They also agreed the Orange County Jail should continue to house federal prisoners awaiting trial, as this brings in about $2.7 million dollars of revenue each year.

Andy Cagle, a local businessman and the only candidate without law enforcement experience, said he wanted to reconfigure how deputies patrol the county, but this idea got little reaction from other candidates.

Keith Webster said he would aggressively target known drug houses, while David Caldwell said he’d make diversity a priority for hiring new officers.

Buddy Parker touted new officer fitness requirements, saying as sheriff he would hold himself to any physical standard required of deputies.

Larry Faucette said the department needs to bring more education programs to local schools. Charles Blackwood promised to reduce redundant paperwork by switching to a paperless reporting system.

All six men are running as Democrats, and there is no Republican challenger. This means the race will be decided in the May 6 primary. Voters registered as Republican cannot vote in the Democratic primary unless they change their party affiliation to “Independent” before April 10.

The race has already garnered much attention, at its the first time in more than three decades that Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass has not stood for re-election.

The six candidates will face off again on April 16 at a forum hosted by the Orange County Democratic Party.