Power Couple

She’s smart, beautiful, and has a quick temper. He’s tall, charming, and prone to sticking his foot in his mouth. Meet Barbara and Dwaine Caraway, the couple who found love—and profit—at City Hall.

She’s beautiful, smart, and has a quick temper. He’s tall, charming, and prone to sticking his foot in his mouth.

He helped her get elected in 1993 to the Dallas City Council in a stunning upset of an incumbent and ran her three subsequent campaigns. She returned the favor by appointing him repeatedly to the Park Board.

This month, Barbara Mallory Caraway, 45, will not be running for the city council for the first time in 10 years, forced off by term limits. But a Caraway is on the ballot: 49-year-old Dwaine is running for his wife’s spot, fulfilling the prophecy one anonymous council member made to Laura Miller in 1995: “As far as we’re concerned, she just keeps the chair warm for Dwaine.”

Barbara and Dwaine first met in the 1970s when both were students at Texas Southern University. He grew up in South Dallas; she was raised in Amarillo. But they didn’t become a duo until 1993 when Barbara, working as a radio announcer, was assigned to produce broadcasts of the Pylon Salesmanship Club, a black businessman’s group Dwaine belongs to.

Since 1993, when he engineered her victory, they’ve been a tag team, infuriating Old Guard black activists and raising eyebrows over repeated financial improprieties.

City Hall insiders call Barbara a diligent and fair-minded council member whose blind spot is her “albatross” of a husband. The two have given their detractors plenty of ammo in the last eight years. Some say they have turned into a walking advertisement of how Dallas City Council seats can be used for personal gain.

• Dwaine took an all-expenses-paid beach trip to Mexico, courtesy of Burch Management, the owners of topless bars in Barbara’s district who have been embroiled in constant disputes with the city.

• Dwaine borrowed $25,000 from the Southern Dallas Development Corporation, which receives city funds, then defaulted on the note.

• Barbara nominated Dwaine for the Olympics 2012 committee; when director Tom Luce declined Dwaine’s appointment, she wrote a letter to Luce, copying the city council, that demanded to know the criteria for selection.

• Barbara named Dwaine her appointee to the city ethics task force, which was studying nepotism among other issues. (When that caused a brouhaha, he withdrew.) The city’s new ethics rules include a clause allowing relatives to serve on minor boards, known informally as the “Dwaine Caraway Amendment.”

• In 1999, Barbara paid her husband more than $16,000 in campaign money for consulting fees and billboards.

• A lawsuit filed last year by the owner of a management company at city-owned Red Bird Airport alleged that the Caraways worked “in tandem” to take over his business and retaliated by having the city cancel its lease when the owner refused to go along.

In every case, like another famous political couple, the Caraways denied any impropriety and shrugged off the criticism as politically motivated. When Barbara first appointed Dwaine to the Park Board in 1993, he was not yet her husband. (Dwaine, as Laura Miller ungraciously pointed out in the Observer, had neglected to tell Barbara when he proposed that he was still married; he quickly filed for divorce and they wed in late 1994.) Dwaine proved to be an energetic, if bull-headed, Park Board member, spearheading the $3 million reconstruction of the city’s Cedar Crest Golf Course club house. It’s pork-barrel politics that constituents like: big, bold, and in their neighborhood.

That’s also a description of Dwaine: big, bold, and in your face. Last summer, during the Pylon’s weekly luncheon, broadcast on cable TV, Dwaine responded to two female critics—one a black woman married to a white man—by calling them “cockroaches.” He compared blacks who marry whites and castigate other African Americans to drug dealers who prey on black children. “Eventually we are going to have to exterminate them intelligently and move our community forward,” Dwaine said. Civic leaders were flabbergasted: what if an Anglo candidate had suggested exterminating blacks who intermarry with whites?

Dwaine quickly toned down the rhetoric and now insists he has no problem with interracial marriages and can work with people of all races. Meanwhile, the tag team has switched roles. Barbara is toiling away at Dwaine’s campaign office, while he is out pressing the flesh.

At his campaign office, Barbara takes a moment from stuffing envelopes and looks up at her mate with an unabashed glow in her eyes. Using her sincerest speaking-to-a-reporter tone, Barbara says, “His big strength is his commitment to the community having a voice at City Hall.”

Now, if he can just keep that foot out of his mouth—and his hands in his pockets.

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