Republican Congressional candidate Dan Debicella has been named the winner of the party’s Fredrick K. Biebel Lifetime Achievement Award.
Biebel was a diehard Republican and a colorful character who worked for his party for decades, cultivating friendships at the national level with operatives like Lyn Nofziger and running the state party’s political events. He was a stalwart in the days of insider Mama Jo McKenzie and Greenwich mega-fundraiser Malcolm Pray, and they have all since passed away in the end of an era for the state Republican Party.
Debicella will receive the Biebel award on October 2 in Norwalk at the Chairman’s Dinner.
“As a state senator and as a congressional candidate, Dan has consistently fought hard for Connecticut’s families and businesses,” GOP chairman Jerry Labriola said in a statement. “The Frederick K. Biebel Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes the many accomplishments Senator Debicella has made throughout his career in public service – both as a state senator and as a Republican nominee for Congress in 2010.”
Debicella, who will be challenging Democrat Jim Himes for the second time after losing in 2010, served in the state Senate in Biebel’s home district for four years. Previously, Debicella served on Shelton’s Board of Apportionment and Taxation for seven years, including four years as chairman.
During the 1996 national convention in San Diego, the 70-year-old Biebel was holding court on the floor, sounding like a man who had been there before. In fact, he had.
He was in Chicago in 1956 when Republicans convened to nominate Dwight D. Eisenhower, and had not missed a GOP convention since. During that time, 11 party conventions in all, Biebel had also served as deputy chairman of the national Republican Party and executive director of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981.
Standing in the same spot with the Connecticut delegation for several hours in San Diego, Biebel greeted a parade of national figures.
“I do whatever Fred tells me to do,” said former White House Chief of Staff and one-time New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, after Biebel brought him by to meet Connecticut delegates. “I knew Fred when he had hair — that’s how long I’ve known him.”
Biebel first met Sununu when Sununu was state party chairman in New Hampshire and Biebel was national chairman of the 50 Republican state party leaders.
Biebel also spotted former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr., and wondered whether he had attended more conventions than his friend.
“I went up to Howard Baker, and he said, `How many have you been to?’ ” Biebel said at the time. “I said, `Eleven.’ He said, `I’ve been to 12.’ ”
Throughout his career as Connecticut state GOP chairman from 1976 to 1979 and in other political positions, Biebel said he often turned to Baker — a well-known moderate — to serve as a calming intermediary in Biebel’s clashes with then-U.S. Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr.