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Phil GiaQuinta, Indiana House Democratic leader, to run in caucus for Fort Wayne mayor

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April 03, 2024

Fort Wayne state Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, leader of Indiana House Democrats, is planning to run in the Democratic caucus for mayor of the city following the death of Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry at the end of March.

GiaQuinta has not officially filed to join the caucus, but Kristen Self, an adviser to GiaQuinta’s mayoral bid, confirmed to IndyStar Wednesday that he plans to run. The official filing period for the Fort Wayne mayoral caucus opened Monday and runs through April 17, according to Derek Camp, chair of the Allen County Democratic Party.

If GiaQuinta wins the caucus, scheduled for April 20, it would create an opening for new leadership atop House Democrats at the Statehouse for the first time in nearly six years and allow a new person to take GiaQuinta’s seat in the Indiana House of Representatives.

Indiana law gives the state’s political parties the tool to hold a special kind of election when a vacancy is created in an elected office. Whether the opening occurs through a death or resignation of an elected official, the party of the person who held the seat is required to hold a caucus where political insiders, known as precinct committee persons, choose the next person to fill that role.

Henry, the late Fort Wayne mayor, died March 28 following a February announcement he was diagnosed with late-stage stomach cancer.

What is a caucus?: Inside the secretive process to fill vacant seats without elections

House Minority Leader Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, (left) shakes hands with Gov. Eric Holcomb during the State of the State address by Gov. Eric Holcomb on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023 at the Indiana State Capitol in Indianapolis.

House Minority Leader Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, (left) shakes hands with Gov. Eric Holcomb during the State of the State address by Gov. Eric Holcomb on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023 at the Indiana State Capitol in Indianapolis.

The caucus process has drawn criticism over the years for allowing political insiders to give politicians the power of incumbency in elected offices without them having to officially campaign before regular Hoosier voters.

There are recent examples of the caucus process at work from both parties. Last October, the Republican party held a caucus where Sen. Cyndi Carrasco was selected to fill a state senate seat following the death of former Sen. Jack Sandlin. Earlier this year, Sen. David Vinzant was selected via a Democratic Party caucus to fill a state senate seat vacancy created after Eddie Melton resigned following his election as mayor of Gary in 2023.

If GiaQuinta runs, he would join three Democrats who already filed to run in the mayoral caucus. As of Wednesday, the Allen County Democratic Party received official forms from Fort Wayne City Councilors Michelle Chambers and Sharon Tucker, as well as Palermo Galindo, a board member of the Greater Fort Wayne Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Allen County Democrats would have to hold another caucus for GiaQuinta’s Statehouse seat if he is chosen to fill the Fort Wayne mayor’s role. In January, GiaQuinta filed to run for reelection to his District 80 Indiana House seat.

GiaQuinta, who has served as a state representative since 2006, was elected to lead the House’s Democratic caucus in November 2018. He is the son of former state Rep. Ben GiaQuinta.

Contact IndyStar’s state government and politics reporter Brittany Carloni at [email protected] or 317-779-4468. Follow her on Twitter/X@CarloniBrittany.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: House Democrat leader Phil GiaQuinta joining Fort Wayne mayoral caucus

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