The most intriguing election battle in years for the post of Utah County sheriff begins in earnest Tuesday night.

The Utah County Deputies Association is sponsoring a three-way debate among Republican candidates for sheriff. The debate begins in the Mountain View High School auditorium at 7 p.m.Sheriff David Bateman, who went unchallenged in the past two elections and has been sheriff since 1985, is running on the Republican ticket along with Lt. Doug Witney, a white-collar crime investigator with the Utah County Attorney's office, and former Graham County, Ariz., Sheriff Richard Mack.

The Deputies Association called the sheriff's "the hottest race in Utah County this year." The Republican county convention is scheduled for May 2. If one candidate doesn't emerge from the convention as the nominee, the top two vote-getters will square off in a primary election this summer, with the winner facing Democrat George S. Alexandreason in November.