Former state Sen. Dan Debicella of Shelton fired up his supporters last week during a campaign for Congress kickoff rally.

Debicella said people in the Fourth Congressional District are disappointed in the U.S. economy and with politicians in Washington, D.C., and worry the future of the American Dream may be threatened.

“America has lost faith in both parties to get something done,” he said.

This has led to “a malaise of small expectations,” Debicella said, much like the era before Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980.

He promised to provide leadership that would make people proud again, and asked the 50 or so people in the room to help him get elected.

“Rest up and have a drink, because the next six months will be a wild ride,” Debicella said of the race to try to unseat three-term Democratic incumbent Jim Himes.

'Good Republican year'

The event took place at the SBC Southport restaurant and brewery, and attracted a lot of high-ranking Republicans, many of whom are current or former public officials.

Gary DeFilippo of Shelton, who serves on the Republican State Central Committee, was among those in attendance.

“I believe this will be a very good Republican year,” DeFilippo said. “I don’t believe this race will be an easy one, but I think it’s a winnable race.”

Convention is in mid-May

Debicella is gearing up for the state Republican Party convention in mid-May. There are two other Republicans in the race — Dr. Joseph Bentivegna, an ophthalmologist from Fairfield, and Carl Higbie, a retired Navy SEAL from Greenwich.

Debicella, who served in the state Senate from 2006 to 2010 before losing a race for Congress to Himes in 2010, is favored to win the party endorsement and hopes to avoid a primary.

There will be 220 delegates at the Republican’s Fourth Congressional District nominating convention, so Debicella needs to secure 111 of them to win the party endorsement. A potential primary challenger would need to get 15% of the delegates — or 33 votes at the convention — to automatically qualify for a primary.

Hitting 'all the milestones'

State GOP Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. said Debicella is showing he can run a strong race with solid fund raising and endorsements. “He’s hit all the milestones,” Labriola said while speaking at the rally.

Labriola said the other two Republican candidates have the right to compete right up to the convention, but then he hopes they will get behind the endorsed candidate — which is expected to be Debicella.

“I’m optimistic we can achieve unity at the state convention a few weeks from now,” Labriola said.

Himes is expected to secure the Democratic nomination for re-election without any competition.

Himes, who lives in Greenwich, was first elected to Congress in 2008.