Russo to announce he won't seek 4th District seat

The field of Republican candidates racing for the Fourth Congressional District is about to get a little less crowded.

Rob Russo, a former state senator from Bridgeport and aide to former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, will announce Thursday morning that he is abandoning his bid for the Republican nomination, sources said.

Instead of seeking the seat himself, Russo will endorse his longtime friend, state Sen. Dan Debicella of Shelton, sources said.

Russo is expected to make his announcement at 10:30 a.m. at the Fairfield Metro Center, 21 Black Rock Turnpike in Fairfield.

A Wednesday evening telephone call to him was not immediately returned. Debicella declined comment until the next morning.

Russo's withdrawal will leave five potential Republican opponents of U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, who defeated Shays in 2008 to become the first Democrat to represent the district since 1969.

Other candidates include Rick Torres, the Bridgeport businessman who lost the 2003 mayoral election; Tom Herrmann, Easton's second-term first selectman; Will Gregory, 24, of New Canaan; and Rob Merkle, an executive recruiter from Norwalk.

Russo, a real estate attorney who headed Gov. M. Jodi Rell's southwestern district office, and Debicella, a Harvard-educated marketer and a major Republican voice in the state Senate, were marked as early favorites in the race with the most funding and the highest name recognition in the 17-town district.

Debicella has lined up a slew of endorsements from leaders in 15 district towns, including the Republican Town Committee chairmen from Darien, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, Norwalk, Redding, Shelton and Weston.

The contest for the Republican nomination is expected to continue beyond the party's May 21 convention to a primary election.

There are two ways hopefuls can get on the primary ballot: With 15 percent of the delegates at the May convention or with about 2,500 signatures on a petition.