Elections

Is this Southlake state lawmaker getting a dose of his own conservative medicine?

Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, the Republican incumbent candidate for Texas House District 98, talks with the Star-Telegram Editorial Board January 29.
Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, the Republican incumbent candidate for Texas House District 98, talks with the Star-Telegram Editorial Board January 29. rmallison@star-telegram.com

Six years ago, Giovanni Capriglione knocked longtime state representative Vicki Truitt from her seat, promising to go to Austin with a more conservative agenda.

Now, Capriglione, whose District 98 includes Colleyville, Grapevine, Keller, Southlake and Westlake, faces stiff opposition from a rival Republican who is essentially giving Capriglione a dose of his own campaign medicine.

Capriglione faces Keller Councilman Armin Mizani in the March 6 GOP primary — and a lot of Republican groups in Northeast Tarrant County are lining up with Mizani.

Mizani, an attorney, has already picked up endorsements from several conservative groups, including Texas Right to Life, Young Conservatives of Texas, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, Texas Gun Rights and NE Tarrant Tea Party.

“Capriglione was once an uncompromising pro-lifer who shared the mission of Texas Right to Life, and we are saddened that his commitment to the pro-life cause has decreased while his fidelity to House leadership has increased,” Texas Right to Life director Elizabeth Graham wrote in an email.

Graham noted that while her group endorsed Capriglione in 2012, since then “Capriglione played the game of liberal House Leadership by pushing anemic Pro-Life bills in lieu of life-saving bills in order to claim nominal Pro-Life victories on which to campaign for re-election.”

Capriglione, who owns an investment firm and chairs a House budget subcommittee, said losing endorsements from groups such as Texas Right to Life “is disappointing, because my [anti-abortion] record is a perfect 100 score.”

But he also said that just because the conservative groups have endorsed Mizani doesn’t mean the conservative voters in his district will, too.

“At the end of the day, the only endorsements I care about are my constituents,” he said.

Mizani also came out ahead of Capriglione during a recent informal straw poll at a Tarrant Republican Club meeting, winning 140 votes compared to Capriglione’s 137 votes.

Mizani says that, like Truitt six years ago, Capriglione has become too willing to meet fellow lawmakers in the middle and compromise on conservative issues, rather than be more of a fierce advocate.

“He has essentially become what Vicki Truitt was in the eyes of the voters: part of the establishment,” Mizani said in a phone interview. “When you have been in a position too long — and his three terms, going for a fourth term, is a long time — you become complacent and cater to the people who fund your campaign.”

But Capriglione said that while he holds conservative beliefs, he also wants to be an effective lawmaker, and sometimes that involves negotiating with other elected leaders with varying political beliefs in order to get things done.

“I’m still very fiscally conservative,” Capriglione told the Star-Telegram Editorial Board during a recent interview. “I’ve decided to do what I need to do, and that’s govern.”

Mizani said that if elected he would present a bill banning in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. He also opposes all toll road projects, although he hasn’t said where he would find the money to build roads that the state otherwise can’t afford — such as Interstate 35W in far north Fort Worth.

Capriglione said he doesn’t advocate for toll roads but believes it’s crucial to provide immediate relief for areas with large employment centers such as the I-35W corridor in northern Tarrant County.

Both candidates said they support some use of incentives to lure businesses to Texas. For example, Fort Worth offered incentives for Facebook to open a data center near Roanoke.

Mizani said he thought it would be OK for cities to provide incentives but didn’t think the state should do that.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott — and before him, then-Gov. Rick Perry — used the Texas Enterprise Fund to provide millions of dollars in incentives and lure many large businesses to the state, including the Charles Schwab corporate campus under construction in Westlake.

That campus eventually could be home to up to 5,000 workers.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796, @gdickson

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