The crowded Republican field seeking the 1st Congressional District nomination will debate at 8 tonight aboard the aircraft carrier Yorktown.

It could be their last joint appearance here before the June 8 primary, and at least eight of the nine Republican candidates are expected to show up.

Tickets to the event, which will be available at the Yorktown, are $35. The Republican parties of Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties hope to use the money to cover their costs and possibly raise a bit of money for them, Charleston GOP Chairwoman Lin Bennett said.

Also today, six of the candidates -- Carroll Campbell, Ken Glasson, Larry Kobrovsky, Mark Lutz, Tim Scott and Paul Thurmond -- and their supporters are expected to gather at the Low Country Food Bank from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to help package food for distribution to local agencies.

Candidate Katherine Jenerette, who missed an earlier debate in Georgetown because she was on Reserve duty in Fort Bragg, N.C., might miss tonight's gathering for the same reason. Clark Parker and Stovall Witte also are in the race.

One controversial part of tonight's events will be a straw poll held at the end.

Kobrovsky downplayed the poll, calling it "pay to play. ... The candidate who buys the most tickets will win."

Glasson will hold a pre-debate rally at 5:30 p.m. at Patriots Point, close to the Yorktown, for those who can't afford the admission price but want to hear him and possibly other candidates.

Excerpts from the debate will begin airing Saturday on Comcast Channel 2.

With so many candidates in the primary, it's likely that the top two vote-getters June 8 will compete in a runoff June 22.

The GOP victor will face the winner of the June 8 Democratic primary between Robert Burton and Ben Frasier, plus several third-party candidates.

Meanwhile, all seven Republican and Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls will debate tonight in Columbia. The event, arranged by WIS-TV, won't be broadcast beyond the Columbia area.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771 or at