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The dean of the Capitol press corps, senior executive editor Paul Burka joined the staff of Texas Monthly one year after the magazine’s founding, in 1973. For nearly forty years he has led the magazine’s political coverage and spearheaded its storied roundup of the Best and Worst Legislators each biennium. A lifelong Texan, he was born in Galveston, graduated from Rice University with a B.A. in history, and received a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law.

Burka is a member of the State Bar of Texas and spent five years as an attorney with the Texas Legislature, where he served as counsel to the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Burka won a National Magazine Award for reporting excellence in 1985 and the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award. He is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and teaches at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also a frequent guest discussing politics on national news programs on MSNBC, Fox, NBC, and CNN.

Articles by Paul Burka

Wendy Davis’s Future

Dec 31, 2014 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

I was surprised to read that Wendy Davis intends to make another run at public office, as yet unspecified. Among other things, she has retracted her support for open carry. But it is hard to see what kind of future Davis has, particularly when Battleground Texas proved to be as…

A Path to Medicaid Expansion?

Dec 29, 2014 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

It appears that Governor-elect Abbott is considering some form of Medicaid expansion. If this is indeed the case, it is incredibly good news for Texas. Rick Perry’s rejection of Medicaid expansion was petulant and extremely damaging to the state. The cost of expansion to the state is miniscule…

The Rise of Joe Straus

Dec 22, 2014 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

The news that Speaker Joe Straus has become the Vice Chair of the Republican Legislative Campaign should be the final nail in the coffin of Michael Quinn Sullivan and Empower Texans. Of course I know it won’t. But it should end any speculation that Straus has any political worries whatsoever;…

One Week Later

Nov 11, 2014 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

After every major election, it seems I find myself writing an obituary for the Texas Democratic party. It’s not a true obituary, I suppose, since the Democrats are not exactly dead, just comatose. This year brought a rare combination of considerable early optimism by Democrats, followed by the worst pasting…

Losing the Battleground

Nov 3, 2014 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

Battleground Texas, the organization chosen by the Obama White House to “turn Texas blue,” proved to have been nothing more than a mirage. In fact, Battleground did more to sabotage the Democratic effort — unintentionally — than to support it, thanks to Jeremy Bird, Battleground’s leader. Bird produced a memo…

And the Voting Begins

Oct 20, 2014 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

UPDATE: In my original post, I mistakenly referred to previous endorsements by some of the state’s major newspapers, and I have corrected the errors. This election has all the earmarks of being one of the strangest ever. First, as I have opined before, this is the weakest ticket the Republican…

Greg Abbott and the DMN

Oct 17, 2014 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

To the surprise of no one, the Morning News has endorsed Greg Abbott for governor. It is a choice that I won’t criticize. But I will raise this red flag: that Wendy Davis has uncovered serious issues about Abbott’s character and lack of empathy for Texans who have…

The Home Stretch

Oct 2, 2014 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

I’m not surprised that the race for governor has tightened according to the recent Lyceum Poll. This is a contest between two candidates who have the support of large constituencies that stretch far beyond Texas. Abbott is among the state’s most prominent attorneys and is no stranger to…

The Fallout From the Enterprise Fund

Sep 29, 2014 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

When one looks at the wheeling and dealing that went on with the Texas Enterprise Fund, my question is this: Why is it not an impeachable offense? These folks used the Enterprise Fund for their private playground. They awarded $222 million to entities that, according to the Dallas Morning News,…

Weighing in on the Debate

Sep 22, 2014 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

Alas, I was out of the state for the Texas gubernatorial debate on Friday evening, but having watched the replay, I can’t say that I missed much. As debates go, I found it relatively low-wattage. Both candidates were articulate and reasonably polite to their opponents, though I thought Davis…

What State Government Does

Sep 16, 2014 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

Recent actions by state government have reinforced my belief that the state rarely does anything FOR the public; it only does things TO the public. The latest example is that Texas insurance commissioner Julia Rathgeber allowed the three largest home insurance companies to impose significant rate increases. Rathgeber could have…

Wendy Davis, Public Relations, and the Political War

Sep 10, 2014 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

I was interested by Eric Bearse’s piece in the Quorum Report yesterday concerning Wendy Davis and abortion. Bearse wrote, among other things: “The reason Wendy Davis has never recovered politically from her abortion filibuster is she fought on turf where she couldn’t win. Outside of San Francisco…

Another Round of School Finance

Sep 2, 2014 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

It is all but certain that Attorney General Greg Abbott will appeal Judge Dietz’s school finance ruling. It’s classic Abbott. He has to win, even if he realizes that he is going to lose.But the Legislature’s treatment of the schools during the 2011 session all but guarantees a loss for Abbott.

Perry’s Defense

Aug 27, 2014 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

The governor has a first-class legal team, but some of its arguments concerning the indictment sound more like rhetoric than law. Such as “an unconstitutional attack on Perry’s rights” And  …”defies common sense” And …”a violation of the Texas and U.S. constitutions” And … “an improper attempt to criminalize politics”…

BREAKING: Governor Perry Indicted on Two Counts

Aug 15, 2014 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

UPDATE: I’ve included a link to the indictments at the bottom of this post. Thought Texas politics couldn’t get any weirder? A short time ago special prosecutor Michael McCrum announced that a grand jury had indicted Perry on two counts related to his veto of funds for the Public Integrity…

Verging on Irrelevance

Aug 15, 2014 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

I don’t think Republicans recognize what is happening to their party in Texas. The GOP is verging on irrelevance. The failure of Texas to land the Republican national convention should have been a wake-up call for the state party. There was a reason why the Republicans chose Cleveland over Dallas:…

Troops on the Border

Aug 5, 2014 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

To close this discussion, I simply want to say one thing: This was completely predictable. There was no reason to send the National Guard to the Border. There was no mission. There was no objective. It was just political theatre to make Rick Perry look like he was doing something,…