Norwich - U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney accepted the state Democratic Party's endorsement Monday night for a fourth term in Congress and vowed to run a full campaign this November against any Republican opponent.
"When I wake up every day, I still pinch myself at having the opportunity to represent this wonderful district in the halls of Congress," Courtney, who holds the 2nd District seat, said before an audience of about 400 delegates and supporters at the convention event in Kelly Middle School.
"We're gonna send Joe back to Washington," proclaimed Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, drawing the cheering crowd to its feet.
Courtney, who first won the seat in 2006, was the only Democratic candidate in the race. He lost his main Republican challenger last week when state Rep. Chris Coutu, R-Norwich, abruptly dropped out of the race.
Coutu is now pursuing the 19th District state Senate seat being vacated by Edith Prague, D-Columbia, who recently announced she will retire.
In the wake of Coutu's departure, two new Republicans have jumped in: Paul Formica, a three-term first selectman of East Lyme, and Doug Dubitsky, an attorney from North Windham who ran in 2010.
They join Daria Novak of Madison in vying for the GOP endorsement at Friday's Republican Party convention. Libertarian candidate Dan Reale of Plainfield is also in the race.
Courtney chatted and mingled among the delegate crowd before taking the stage Monday.
Asked if he plans to ease off the campaigning this year without a big-name opponent in the race, the incumbent said no way.
"We're going to run a strong campaign," said Courtney, an attorney and former state representative from Vernon. "This is a district where you have to earn it every two years."
Courtney's closest race was in 2006, the year he upset Republican incumbent Rob Simmons by a mere 83 votes. In 2010, he handily beat former newscaster Janet Peckinpaugh, capturing 59 percent of the vote to her 38 percent.
New London residents Bud Bray and restaurant owner Candace Devendittis gave speeches in favor of Courtney's nomination.
Devendittis, who owns Dev's on Bank Street, recalled how Courtney helped her obtain reduced monthly payments on a business loan, saving the restaurant from possible closure two years ago.
"I have a secret," Devendittis said. "I am not a Democrat, I am a Republican, and I support Joe Courtney."
Bray praised Courtney for standing up for the middle class and defending Medicare and Social Security benefits.
"He knows it is his job in Washington to keep those programs strong," Bray said.
In a brief interview, Courtney pointed to his protection of the region's shipbuilding industry and taking the lead in efforts to prevent the scheduled July 1 doubling of federally subsidized student loan rates as some of his recent accomplishments. He also cited his willingness to "reach across the aisle" during last year's debt ceiling crisis and near shutdown of the federal government.