Conservatives Seek to Hold Former Ally Accountable in HD 98

SOUTHLAKE, Texas—A lawmaker who came into office as a conservative and soon betrayed his own constituents is finding himself in the re-election fight of his life as conservatives rally to hold him accountable.

State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R—Southlake) won his election to the Texas Legislature as a challenger to State Rep. Vicki Truitt, a liberal Republican legislator whose poor voting record made her a top target of the fiery Tarrant County conservatives who inhabit Texas House District 98.

Now he’s the target of the same individuals who propelled him to office..

Though unsuccessful in his first attempt in 2010, Capriglione defeated Truitt with the help of the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party and statewide conservative organizations in 2012. His win was hailed as a massive victory for taxpayers and he entered the Texas Legislature as a conservative firebrand, standing shoulder to shoulder with his Tarrant County colleagues Jonathan Stickland (R—Bedford) and Bill Zedler (R—Arlington).

But after his first session, Capriglione turned his back on his constituents and joined the very cabal that he’d campaigned to oppose. The first warning sign?

Capriglione’s decision to betray his conservative colleagues in the Texas Legislature and support Texas House Speaker Joe Straus for re-election which shocked, alarmed, and disappointed the very activits who propelled him into office.

“I believe that Gio thinks we will forget this vote, or that we’ll overlook it when he does some good things, or more likely that no one would bother to run against him,” wrote Northeast Tarrant Tea Party’s Julie McCarty. “But what will come next? If he sells out once, there is no turning back. The ‘other side’ now knows he does have a breaking point, and they just have to keep at him long enough to get him to give in.”

McCarty’s prophecy could not have been more accurate.

In his very next session, Capriglione’s record sharply declined—falling from an “A” to a “C” on the Fiscal Responsibility Index as he repeatedly sided with leadership against the conservative colleagues he had fought alongside only two years prior. This session, Capriglione’s rating on the Index dropped to a 63—five points lower than Truitt’s 68 when he ran against her liberal record.

And while Capriglione didn’t draw an opponent in 2015 he faces a strong one in his current re-election campaign: Keller City Councilman Armin Mizani.

Mizani says his campaign is firing on all cylinders seeking to contrast his conservative convictions with Capriglione’s decision to sell out to the Austin lobby.

“I’m running on the same things Gio campaigned on the last couple times; the difference is I mean it,” says Mizani. “This community is full of people with conservative principles and it’s time they had a representative who actually stood up for them.”

“Giovanni voted to allow school districts to raise taxes without voter approval, he’s done nothing to abolish Robin Hood, and he’s turned his back on our district. Folks are ready for a change,” he added.

Steve Waltens, a prominent conservative activist in the district and 2017 Conservative Leader Award honoree, agreed.

“Citizens here in Colleyville and across the district want conservative legislators, but more importantly they want accountable legislators who say what they mean and mean what they say,” said Waltens. “Citizens are in an uproar because Capriglione’s campaign rhetoric doesn’t jive with his record in Austin.”

In an open letter to Capriglione published by Texas Scorecard, Waltens took Capriglione to task for failing to live up to his campaign promises and for votes to subvert conservatives’ efforts in the Texas Legislature.

This article is part of Texas Scorecard’s “On the Trail Tour” series. To view more field reports on campaigns across the state of Texas, visit our website here.

Zach Maxwell and Brandon Waltens contributed to this report. 

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Cary Cheshire

Cary Cheshire serves as Vice President of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, the premier project of Empower Texans. A 6th Generation Texan, Cary attended Texas A&M University was active in a number of conservative causes including Ted Cruz's Senate campaign. He has also worked on campaigns to elect conservatives to Congress and the Texas Legislature. Cary enjoys college football, genealogy research, and the occasional craft beer.

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