Pelath leaving House leadership post, GiaQuinta jumping into the race

By Makenna Mays
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, is considering a run to lead Indiana House Democrats through the 2018 legislative session and elections.

“I have been one of those who have reached out to some of my members to sort of gauge folks’ interest in me in doing this and what I think I can bring to the caucus in terms of articulating an agenda I think the House caucus can be proud of,” GiaQuinta said Monday.

Rep. Phil Giaquinta, D-Fort Wayne. Photo by Kayla Walker, TheStatehouseFile.com

If elected by the 30 members of the House Democratic caucus, GiaQuinta would replace Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, who said last weekend that he is stepping down from his leadership role. Pelath, 47, who was elected in 1998, also said he would not run for re-election.

GiaQuinta, elected to his House seat in 2006, has been assistant minority leader under Pelath.

Pelath said he is not endorsing any candidate to replace him.

“There are many candidates who I know very well who have all the right capabilities to do the job,” Pelath said Monday after the Indiana Chamber of Commerce legislative preview luncheon in downtown Indianapolis.

Pelath surprised his legislative colleagues with his announcement that he will not seek re-election and was relinquishing his leadership role.

He joked at the luncheon that he is the happiest guy in the room before sharing his priorities one last time. They include growing middle class wages, protecting health care for Hoosiers and ending divisiveness in politics by making sure people’s voices are heard.

House minority leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, announced Sunday he will step down from his position. His last day in the position will be Tuesday, but he will serve the remainder of his term. Photo by Adrianna Pitrelli, TheStatehouseFile.com

Rep. Karlee Macer, D-Indianapolis, said she was surprised by Pelath’s announcement and believes others were as well.

“I was surprised to read his email, but at the same time I was so happy for him,” Macer said, adding that she expects opportunity for growth to come from this change in leadership.

While unsure of who might replace Pelath, Macer did not rule out running herself.

“I never would have ever thought I was interested in being the leader of the Democrat party in the House of Representatives,” Macer said. “But I care so deeply about the Democrat party and certainly people in the state of Indiana that I think that for someone in my shoes, it is important to think outside of yourself.”

Pelath, in a letter to caucus members, wrote:

“Immediately after the past election, I confided to many of you that I was not going to do this forever. And after several months of repressed doubts, soul-searching, and discussions with my family that time has come – as it does for most of us.”

Pelath said this decision was made partly so he could spend more time with his family. He and his wife recently had a baby.

“On a personal note, we are all lucky to have opportunities in life when we learn that there are other very important things than the work we do here,” Pelath said.

Pelath was first elected to represent the 9th District in 1998 and elected as House Democratic leader in 2012. During the past session, he helped pass legislation that will aid economic opportunities along the South Shore Line in Northwest Indiana.

“Last year I had a new son and I kept having the voice inside of me that said time to coach baseball, make those plans and pursue other opportunities,” Pelath said. “It’s been a thrill of a lifetime.” 

Pelath’s last day as House Democratic leader will be Tuesday, but he will finish out his term.

Makenna Mays is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. Adrianna Pitrelli contributed to this report.

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