A Fairfield physician has announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for the 4th Congressional District seat held by Democrat Jim Himes.

Dr. Joseph Bentivegna, an ophthalmologist who lives in town and has an office in Rocky Hill, said in a news release that the theme of his campaign is "the massacre of the middle class." He said major financial interests, high taxes and government regulation "are destroying the American Dream -- especially in Fairfield County -- where there is little job growth or influx of young families."

Bentivegna said the focus of his campaign will be the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He said he would replace it was a "universal safety net" by extending Medicare to all families for medical bills that exceed $50,000 per year. "As a physician, I am able to argue this effectively," he said.

Bentivegna also said he believes that large banks and hedge funds have too much influence on the political system and are damaging the middle class and working poor.

Several other Republicans have expressed interest in challenging Himes, who is expected to seek a fourth term this November.

The leading contender for the GOP nomination is generally acknowledged to be Dan Debicella, a former state senator who lost to Himes in 2010. Bentivegna put his chances of securing the nomination as "less than 50 percent, but increasing daily."

"I am inclined to primary if I do not get the nomination, but I have to be convinced that I have the support of Independents and Democrats to do so," Bentivegna said. "I also would need to see that media outlets are encouraging me to primary."

He said if he felt a primary would only weaken the party's candidate and decrease the chances of defeating Himes in November, he would likely not force a primary.

This is not Bentivegna's first foray into politics. He unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate 20 years ago, with the support of the Fairfield Republican Town Committee.

"My daughters were both young and it was very difficult on my wife, Louise," the candidate said. "She did not want my running again until the girls were out of college." His youngest just graduated from Georgetown University, Bentivegna said, and he has his wife's support 100 percent.

He grew up in western Pennsylvania and attended St. Francis College in Pennsylvania and Penn State University's Hershey College of Medicine.

The candidate worked for a year as a volunteer physician in Haiti, according to the release, and write a book about the experience, "The Neglected and Abused: A Physician's Year in Haiti."

He also has written a novel, "The Lords of Greenwich," according to the release, and has been a syndicated columnist writing about health care, tort reform, Wall Street reform and Haiti.

Bentivegna and his wife Louise have been married for 26 years and are the parents of two grown daughters, according to the release.

The candidate's campaign website is www.joebentivegna.com