Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, November 21, 2017 1:00 am

GiaQuinta vying to lead Democratic caucus

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, Fort Wayne, is jockeying to become the next leader of the House Democratic caucus.

He is one of at least three members seeking support for the post after House Minority Leader Scott Pelath announced Sunday he would not seek re-election and would resign his leadership post this week.

Pelath of Michigan City was first elected to the House in 1998. He was chosen to lead the Democratic caucus in 2012. He is leaving to spend more time with his young family.

His last day as leader will be today, which is Organization Day for lawmakers. It is possible – though unlikely – that the House Democrat caucus would vote for a new leader then. The race could last a few weeks.

“At this point I'm throwing my hat in the ring and running,” GiaQuinta said. “I'm running on my résumé of hard work. I try to lead by example.”

He hasn't spoken to each of the 30 members of the caucus but is making his way through the group and is getting a good response.

Others said to be interested in the spot are Rep. Cherrish Pryor, Indianapolis, and Rep. Dan Forestal, Indianapolis.

GiaQuinta has an edge over the two in experience – representing District 80 since 2006.

His district comprises south-central Fort Wayne. He also is the appointed assistant minority leader and ranking minority member of the House Public Policy committee, a group that hears contentious issues such as alcohol, guns, abortion and gaming.

Forestal – an Indianapolis firefighter – joined the House in 2012 and Pryor – chair of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus – in 2008.

GiaQuinta has worked with Republicans to pass several bills, including local legislation for the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board and language last year to aid a local beer distillery.

He is better known for his behind-the-scenes work in recruiting candidates and fundraising for the caucus. He said he was only outraised by Pelath.

A soft-spoken guy, GiaQuinta said there are plenty of others in the caucus who can give a fiery speech.

“I'm quick on my feet and can get up there and give our side of the argument and ask good questions of the Republican authors,” he said.

GiaQuinta works as the utilities services manager for City Utilities, and holds a bachelor's degree from Indiana University. He replaced his deceased father, Ben GiaQuinta, in the Legislature.