Four-way GOP primary set in 4th

BRIDGEPORT -- Though he easily won the Republican Party nomination for the 4th Congressional District, state Sen. Dan Debicella, R-Shelton, has one more battle to wage before he can face off against incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Jim Himes.

Bridgeport resident Rick Torres, Easton First Selectman Tom Herrmann and Norwalk resident Rob Merkle all secured enough petition signatures to get their names on the Aug. 10 primary ballot.

The candidates failed to garner 15 percent of the convention delegates, so instead needed to gather 1,998 signatures of registered Republicans in the district by 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Torres had already collected more than 2,000 signatures before Memorial Day weekend, and Herrmann's campaign turned in nearly 2,500 names. Merkle said his campaign had 3,000 "and counting."

"Dan received overwhelming support at the convention and he's already earned tremendous support from Republicans, independents and Democrats throughout the district," said Debicella's campaign manager Jason Perillo. "He's been knocking on doors for weeks and it's clear people believe in his message of fiscal responsibility and in his plans to create jobs."

And a primary, Perillo said, will give Debicella "a great opportunity to share that message and meet more Fairfield County residents."

But his challengers are equally as confident about their chances to succeed in a primary vote.

"Absolutely," said Merkle, who sent out a mass e-mail to supporters Tuesday morning, urging them to sign his petition if they hadn't already done so. "The voters of this district want to have a say in who represents them in November. They do not want career politicians or party insiders."

In his e-mail, Merkle charged that "party forces intimidated many of our delegates and supporters. ... We lost the convention to the party-endorsed candidate; a self-proclaimed moderate cut from the same cloth that lost the seat just two years ago, and saw declining support for more than ten years."

Polling data on

Herrmann's website indicates he has become the best known candidate and leads the other three in name recognition and likely voters' preference by double digits.

Those results, according to Herrmann, underscore the weakness in Debicella's argument that he is the candidate that can beat Himes.