By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Williams later slams Caraway as soft on sexually oriented businesses, or SOBs, which still proliferate in the northern part of District 6 despite determined opposition from neighbors. "We know some people in this race have a connection to the SOBs," Williams says, referring to Barbara Mallory Caraway's acceptance in 1999 of $2,000 in campaign donations from Burch Management, owner of some of Dallas' most popular strip bars. Facing negative publicity, she later returned it.
While Williams and the other candidates urge crackdowns on the SOBs, Caraway stresses conciliation. Strip-club détente can be reached when city officials can talk about compromise solutions "openly, without ridicule." Until then, the SOBs will run legal rings around the city. "If they sell seven Cokes for seven dollars each, and they all band together," he says, "they have a lot of money to fight the city."
In his fourth council run, Williams could be Dallas' own Harold Stassen, the candidate who ran for president 10 times. Executive director of Rainbow Bridge, an inactive nonprofit youth organization that owes $2,277 in property taxes to the city, Williams says he works on commission as a salesman for Medical Air Services and Associates, an emergency air transportation company. He insists his chances of winning are good. "Every time I've run, I've run to win," he says, blaming parochialism for his electoral failings. "I'm from East Texas and that has always been a factor."
Williams expresses bafflement that he's not a council member yet. "You would think in '91 we both would have walked in, because we tore the system down," he says of himself and Marvin Crenshaw, the other 14-1 plaintiff who's challenging incumbent Leo Chaney in District 7. "People have not appreciated the work Marvin and I did."
Also present at the debate is Beckles, 51, a private-practice attorney who ran an unsuccessful 1992 campaign for state representative. A Bronx native who came to Dallas to attend Oak Cliff's now-defunct Bishop College, he's served on several city and civic panels, including the Health and Human Services Committee and Preservation Dallas.
In person, Beckles is easygoing, but he doesn't hesitate to criticize other candidates. He faults Dwaine Caraway's advocacy of a $2.3 million clubhouse at Cedar Crest golf course (now halfway finished) during his parks board tenure. "It's a total waste of taxpayer dollars," he says.
Beckles has done little campaigning. Last week, his campaign hit a serious snag when the Morning News reported two past arrests for violent attacks on women. The first involved a 1992 domestic dispute with his wife. According to an arrest report, Beckles' wife said he pushed her down outside their home and kicked her in the head three times. She later declined to press charges. In the News, Beckles called the incident "a family thing that got out of hand."
Similarly, an ex-employee who complained in 1994 that Beckles bound, gagged and hit her, then forced her to perform oral sex, also declined to prosecute. Beckles says police blew both incidents "out of proportion." He won't comment what exactly the cops got wrong in the second case but stresses he wasn't convicted of wrongdoing and therefore did nothing wrong.
Lynn, 37, an administrative assistant at a law firm and producer of the "Good Ole Gospel Hour" show on local public access television, is the final contender. A West Dallas resident and political neophyte, Lynn also has some legal baggage, including a 1993 misdemeanor bad-check theft conviction, a 1995 eviction and several lawsuits against her for debts. Attempts to interview Lynn in-depth were unsuccessful: She cheerfully cut off phone conversations with excuses that she had to go to the post office or see a friend.
Caraway is probably right: The race for District 6 boils down to race. While whites who are planning to vote for Oakley often say he represents their interests better than the anti-crackhouse candidate, others admit it's a Caucasian thing. Is that any different, they ask, from black voters who will only vote for a black candidate?
Meanwhile, the Oakley camp has taken Dwaine Caraway to task for shoddy campaign finance reporting. Pat Cotton, a political consultant to District 13 candidate Mitchell Rasansky and an Oakley ally, says the sloppiness of Caraway's April 4 contributions and expenditures report shocked her.
In that report, Caraway doesn't list full addresses for contributors, and some names are illegible. The abbreviation "app," for "approximately," is noted in front of dollar amounts of up to $5,000. "I'm shocked [the city] would accept it," Cotton says. "Barbara's been in office eight years and he hasn't learned to fill out an accurate report?"
Caraway attributes such criticism to "racial pettiness" and "fear the takeover they planned is being spoiled." Even so, he told the Observer he would submit a revised report with full addresses to the city secretary. What of approximate figures on his report? Caraway says he has receipts to back them up.
Dodgy recordkeeping, it seems, is a Caraway family practice. Last year, records revealed that Barbara Mallory Caraway paid Dwaine Caraway's Profile Group at least $16,000 over several years for political consulting and billboards. Caraway defended the payments as fair since other candidates paid him for work as well. "You can't charge one and don't charge the other," he told the Morning News.