Former state Sen. Sam Caligiuri said Sen. Andrew Roraback’s ability to work with lawmakers of all ideologies make him the strongest candidate for the 5th Congressional district and an answer to partisan gridlock in Congress.

At a Tuesday morning press conference on the steps of the Cheshire Town Hall, the former lawmaker endorsed Roraback in the crowded race for the Congressional seat being vacated by Democrat U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy.

Caligiuri, a Republican from Waterbury, lost a close race for the seat to Murphy in 2010. Now he’s named Roraback, a self-described “New England Republican,” as the best candidate in the five-way race for the Republican nomination.

“Times are so difficult and the challenges we face are so dire that we need to send to Washington someone who has felt the incredible pressure of sitting in the caucus room and having to make a tough decision, sometimes when your party doesn’t want you to make it, but you think it’s the right thing to do,” Caligiuri said.

Caligiuri said Roraback’s integrity earns him the respect of both Republicans and Democrats.

“That allowed to get a lot done for his constituents. That’s the kind of approach to governing we need in Washington because you don’t have to chose between finding a way to compromise where appropriate and your convictions. That’s a false choice,” he said.

Caligiuri said that when he was a freshman in the state Senate, he reached out to senior senators of both parties for advice on how to be an effective member of the minority party.

“Time and again people said to me, ‘Look to Andrew Roraback as a role model,’” he said.

Roraback’s moderate social views make him notable among candidates in the Republican field which include Mark Greenberg of Litchfield, Justin Bernier of Plainville, Michael Clark of Farmington, and Lisa Wilson-Foley of Simsbury.

Though a staunch fiscal conservative, Roraback has parted ways with his Republican colleagues a number of times over his 16 years in the Senate. In 2009, he was the only Republican in the Senate to vote to repeal the death penalty. He’s also advocated for the environment and the preservation of farmland.

On Tuesday he stood by his record, which includes the distinction of being the only lawmaker who hasn’t missed a vote in the last 16 years.

“I don’t run from my political stripe. I am a New England Republican and quite frankly I think that’s the voice which is conspicuous by its absence in the national debate and desperately needed,” he said.

Roraback defended his conservative credentials, pointing to his fiscally conservative voting record. He said he believes Republican principles are the best principles for the country’s future but if he went to Washington he would serve constituents not the party.

“I’m an American before I’m a Republican and I don’t think partisan advantage should be the end game of political life. I’ve always thought that advancing the common good aught to be the end game of public service,” he said.

Caligiuri said Roraback understands that to get the economy back on track Congress needs to pass policies that keep spending under control and cut back on regulations burdening businesses trying to grow jobs.

“Those are the types of policies that Andrew has been advocating as a state legislator for many years, most recently as the ranking member of the Finance Committee, where he was on the forefront of fighting against tax increases,” he said.

Roraback said if two years ago the fiscal situation was what it is today, Caligiuri would have beat Murphy. He expressed confidence Republicans would win the seat this year.

“Never have the stars been better aligned for a member of our party to take back this seat,” he said.

GOP Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. agreed.

“I’m very pleased and encouraged by the fundraising numbers of all five of our candidates. I think it speaks to the enthusiasm that our base has, our donor base,” he said.

Labriola said he will remain neutral until the nomination process is through. But whoever Republicans pick will have a good shot at defeating House Speaker Chris Donovan, the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, he said.

Democrats vying for the seat include Donovan of Meriden, Elizabeth Esty of Cheshire and Dan Roberti of Kent. The race promises to be a competitive one. Last month the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added the district to their list of their tight races. 

Cheshire RTC Vice Chairman Tom Pinkham said he also hadn’t decided who he would support for the Republican nomination but he questioned the venue Roraback and Caligiuri chose for the announcement.

Given the 2007 Cheshire home invasion murders, and the death sentences handed down to both the defendants in that case, Pinkham, a supporter of the death penalty, said he didn’t know if Roraback was trying to make a statement.

“Sen. Roraback’s the only one who voted against the death penalty and to have it in Cheshire… it’s just concerning to a certain extent,” he said.

Roraback and Caligiuri said they were both coming from work and saw Cheshire as a good place to meet.

“More importantly Cheshire is representative of the 41 communities in the 5th Congressional District. It’s a mid-sized, suburban town made up of hardworking people that are struggling more than ever to make ends meet,” Roraback said.