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

Lowe and Behold

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

An open letter to the lucky new chair of the most dysfunctional agency in Texas, the State Board of Education.

The Man Who Saved LBJ

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

Who deserves credit for Lyndon Johnson's newly burnished reputation? Harry Middleton, the director of the LBJ presidential library, who made hours and hours of White House audiotapes public—and in doing so, remade history.

The Man Who Isn’t There

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

In word and deed, the George W. Bush now residing in the White House bears little resemblance to the Texas governor I gladly sent to Washington. That's why I'm so ambivalent about reelecting him.

Congressman Charlie Wilson

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

Charlie served his district and his state well, and he never tried to hide his shortcomings, and he was a good friend. A lot of people would settle for that as an epitaph.

The Thrilla in Vanilla

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

The looming clash between Republican gubernatorial candidates Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison may not be as fearsome as the storied Ali-Frazier bout, but it’s the heavyweight showdown every Texas political junkie has been waiting for.

Aggie bonfire tragedy
The Aggie Bonfire Tragedy

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

What’s so important about a stack of wood? Every Aggie knows that the answer is tradition—which is why, after a catastrophe that took the lives of twelve young men and women, the decision of whether to continue, change, or call a halt to the bonfire looms so large at Texas A&M.

Beating the Good Ol’ Boys

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

Sharon McCoy sells Suburbans. A lot of Suburbans. More Suburbans – and pickups and vans and Blazers – than anybody else. In 1984, working out of Lawrence, Marshall Chevrolet in Hempstead, she was number one in the country in truck sales. Six years before she became supreme in Suburbans, McCoy…

The Soul of a Huge Machine

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

TRAILER HITCH Another option that’s great for the ranch-style look, even if you don’t ever plan to haul anything. THE BACK DOOR The big debate: panel doors or a tailgate with a roll-down window? Panel doors are more functional (you don’t have to reach for groceries), but the…

My Frail Island

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

The damage done by Hurricane Ike to Galveston, my beloved hometown, is in many ways worse than you’ve read about. And I’m not only talking about the physical devastation.

North Toward Dome

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

The best way to visit the Capitol, the state’s grandest public building, is to take the 45-minute guided tour. But there is much more to see if you know what to look for, and I’m going to tell you precisely that.

The Man Who Wasn’t There

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

Every family has its myths. Some are intended to reveal, and some are intended to conceal, and sometimes the intentions can get confused. The problem with myth, however, is that it can overpower history. That’s what happened in the case of my father, who died when I was four. Only when I finally learned the truth about him could I come to appreciate him as a real person.

Pit Stops

Jan 20, 2013 By Patricia Sharpe, Eileen Schwartz, Joe Nick Patoski, Katy Vine, John Morthland, Paul Burka, John Spong, Michael Hall, Jane Dure and Christopher Keyes

Where are the best places to eat barbecue in Texas? Six years ago we published a highly subjective—and hotly debated— list of our fifty favorite joints, and now we’ve gone back for seconds. Ten intrepid souls drove more than 21,000 miles in search of 2003’s worthiest ‘cue. Here’s what they came back with: the top 5 and the next 45, plus honorable mentions, great chains, and meat by mail.


Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

A masterpiece of courthouse architecture in Waxahachie, a handsome jail of native stone in Marfa: Significant structures line the streets of five terrific town centers.

Guns in school and everywhere else

Jan 17, 2013 By Paul Burka

I can’t conceive of any valid argument against expanded federal background checks for gun sales. We came within one vote on the Public Safety committee when Bush was governor of passing a requirement for background checks, and my recollection is that Bush killed it with a phone call.

What George P. should do

Jan 16, 2013 By Paul Burka

First, he should stop saying that he’s running for office but hasn’t made up his mind about which one. It makes him sound like a dilettante: someone who thinks he’s God’s gift to Texas politics, instead of a serious politician. He is leaning toward running for Land Commissioner,…

Does Perry’s fundraising hint at his plans?

Jan 16, 2013 By Paul Burka

UPDATED: 2:29 pm The governor raised $3.554 million during the fundraising period that ended on January 15. His total cash on hand is $6.028 million. This level of activity (or inactivity) strongly suggests that Perry is not running for reelection. It is nowhere near enough for a governor’s race–remember that…

So, about that budget . . .

Jan 15, 2013 By Paul Burka

I don’t get it. We have the biggest revenue estimate in the history of the state, $101 billion, and it appears that the House and Senate want their budgets to be under 2011 numbers, which was the worst year in the history of the state. This is absolutely nuts.

Week 1 in Review

Jan 14, 2013 By Paul Burka

The most important thing that happened in week one was the comptroller’s revenue estimate. For the first time in several sessions, the state has enough money to address long-neglected issues. Money makes all the difference in the world. When there is money in the treasury, anything is possible. When…

Prelude to cronyism?

Jan 10, 2013 By Paul Burka

Rick Perry’s latest comment about CPRIT, the state’s embattled cancer-fighting agency, is disturbing. He says, six years after the agency was created with the mission of curing cancer, that the legislative intent included “creating wealth.” At the same time, Perry dismissed the importance of basic research, saying “Basic research takes…

Day 1: Two speeches

Jan 8, 2013 By Paul Burka

After the members of the House took the oath of office this afternoon, they heard from two of the state’s leaders. One was Joe Straus, who had just won a third term as speaker, this time by acclamation. The other was Rick Perry, who is presumed to be running for…

Day 0

Jan 7, 2013 By Paul Burka

As Yogi Berra is reputed to have said, “It’s deja vu all over again.” Tea party members made the rounds at the Capitol today, as they did on the day before the 2011 session started, in the hope of persuading lawmakers to oppose the reelection of Joe Straus as speaker.

The Aggies and the Ecstasy

Jan 7, 2013 By Paul Burka

I attended the AT&T Cotton Bowl game on Friday, which is no longer played at the Cotton Bowl but rather in Jerry Jones’ mammoth Cowboys Stadium, often referred to in extraterrestial terms like “The Death Star” or “the mother ship.” The place to be during the game was the Chancellor…

The Simpson Rules Reforms

Jan 3, 2013 By Paul Burka

Before the New Year, David Simpson sent a letter to his House colleagues outlining his suggestions for revising the House Rules. I have considerable admiration for his efforts, and some of his ideas are worth implementing, starting with limiting the presence of committee chairs on Calendars. Simpson is correct in…

On the Money

Jan 1, 2013 By Paul Burka

As the Eighty-third Legislature gears up at the Capitol this month, will lawmakers be penny-wise and pound-foolish? Or just plain foolish?

Dewhurst’s terrible year

Dec 31, 2012 By Paul Burka

One has to feel sorry for David Dewhurst. Has any recent Texas politician ever suffered through a worse year? He lost a Senate race that he was heavily favored to win; his campaign account is missing hundreds of thousands of dollars, allegedly due to the actions of his…

NY Times casts doubt on Tea Party’s future

Dec 31, 2012 By Paul Burka

From the Times: The Tea Party might not be over, but it is increasingly clear that the election last month significantly weakened the once-surging movement, which nearly captured control of the through a potent combination of populism and fury. Leading Congressional Republicans,…

Science and the fetal pain abortion bill

Dec 17, 2012 By Paul Burka

The justification for the legislation lies in a fact (or, rather, an assertion) that cannot be proven: a fetus can experience pain starting at twenty weeks. My source is an article that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association for August 24/31 2005 under the headline…

The gun debate

Dec 17, 2012 By Paul Burka

I’ll state my position plainly. I don’t believe that the Second Amendment should be read as allowing Americans to own assault weapons. The Founding Fathers never envisioned the kind of arms that Americans possess today. Criminal gangs have more firepower than law enforcement. That said, here is an…

Pflugerville ISD authorizes domestic partner benefits

Dec 15, 2012 By Paul Burka

The school board voted 5-1 to approve the measure, making Pflugerville the first district in the state to offer such benefits. As many readers are no doubt aware, state senator Dan Patrick has asked attorney general Abbott to rule on whether domestic partner benefits are legal under the…

Toxic Mike

Dec 11, 2012 By Paul Burka

Last week Michael Quinn Sullivan posted a story on the Empower Texans web site headlined “Toxic Joe.” The reference, of course, is to Joe Straus, the speaker of the House, whom Sullivan has tried to remove from power, with nothing to show for his efforts. The Sullivan-imposed nickname…

Texas, gay marriage, and the Supreme Court

Dec 10, 2012 By Paul Burka

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear two cases involving same-sex marriage could provide yet another indication of how isolated Texas politics has become from the national mainstream. As James Carville pointed out on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday, Americans’ opinions on same-sex marriage have changed with astonishing rapidity—but…

Simpson mulls race for speaker

Dec 7, 2012 By Paul Burka

Has the anti-Straus faction adopted a strategy of divide-and-conquer? That is, putting forth multiple candidates for speaker, which would muddy the waters and dilute the vote for Straus. The problem with this strategy is that neither David Simpson nor Bryan Hughes has demonstrated that he has the gravitas to be…