Paul Burka's Profile Photo

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.

Politics & Policy |
December 3, 2012

Mike Murphy on the GOP’s troubles

Murphy ranks high on my list of the smartest political consultants in either party. His remarks appear in Time’s “Swampland.” I will publish a few excerpts: We Republicans cherish the free market. So now might be the right time to start listening to it. Our party has lost

Politics & Policy |
November 27, 2012

Simpson will oppose vouchers

State representative David Simpson (R-Longview) is a politician who is hard to categorize. He is totally independent and doesn’t care what others think of him. Nor does he shrink from conflict with the likes of TPPF and Michael Quinn Sullivan.From the Longview News-Journal: Longview’s state lawmaker said Tuesday

Politics & Policy |
November 16, 2012

Frum here to eternity

I just read a review on the Huffington Postof David Frum’s new ebook, titled “Why Romney Lost (And What the GOP Can Do About It.)” A lot of Republicans don’t care for Mr. Frum, who was a speechwriter for George W. Bush, and regard him as an apostate

Politics & Policy |
November 15, 2012

Drug testing: a solution in search of a problem

When the state’s leaders decide to implement drug testing of the state’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens–those who are trying to get by on unemployment and/or welfare benefits–they might as well hang a sign in the rotunda that says “OUT OF IDEAS.” We have so many problems in this state,

Politics & Policy |
November 12, 2012

Karl Rove forms circular firing squad

PoliticalWire.com reports: Despite a terrible showing on Election Day, Karl Rove believes that American Crossroads and its more secretive issue-advocacy arm, Crossroads GPS — which allows donors to remain anonymous — are here to stay, the Washington Post reports. “Rove is pondering new missions for Crossroads to address

Politics & Policy |
November 7, 2012

Davis win boosts Democrats

Democratic legislative candidates lost most of their races on election night, but there were two notable exceptions. One was Wendy Davis’s victory over Mark Shelton in the race for a Tarrant County Senate seat. With 228 of 349 precincts reporting, and only 6 outstanding, Davis had an insurmountable lead. The

Politics & Policy |
November 6, 2012

Out on a red limb

One thing that is all but certain to emerge from this night will be a different political status for Texas. If Romney wins, Texans will be going off to Washington to join the government—you know, the one they love to hate. (Already there are rumors of KBH for Secretary of

Politics & Policy |
November 4, 2012

R-rated redistricting emails could roil speakers race

Earlier today, Erick Erickson, of RedState.com, posted a juicy story about the race for Speaker of the Texas House: Despite efforts by grassroots organizations, new media writers and others, most of the coordinated efforts against conservatives by Straus and his allies regarding Texas redistricting have been hidden from view. Speaker Straus has

Politics & Policy |
November 2, 2012

16 polls

I’m sitting in my office at TEXAS MONTHLY staring at a computer screen filled with sixteen polls.Fourteen show Obama in the lead. Two are ties.

Politics & Policy |
November 1, 2012

The Hole Truth

How deep is the budget hole that was dug by the 82nd Legislature? Here are some numbers that describe the extent of the problem:1. Medicaid was underfunded by $4.7B2. To pay for the full 24 months will cost another $4.7B3. That still leaves Medicaid caseload growth (to be determined)4. Public

Politics & Policy |
October 31, 2012

Latest swing state polls

Here are the latest polls from the battleground states:Ohio: Obama 50%, Romney 45% (Quinnipiac)Florida: Obama 48%, Romney 47% (Quinnipiac)Iowa: Obama 50%, Romney 45% (Public Policy Polling)Michigan: Obama 48%, Romney 45% (Detroit News)Pennsylvania: Obama 48%, Romney 44% (Franklin and Marshall)Virginia: Obama 49%, Romney 47% (Quinnipiac)Wisconsin:

Politics & Policy |
October 30, 2012

Will cuts be restored? Craddick says no

I saw in the Midland Reporter-Telegram that Tom Craddick spoke to the home folks–the Permian Basin Petroleum Association–a few days ago. Here’s what he had to say: When the next session of the Texas Legislature opens in January, “it will be about money,” said State Rep. Tom Craddick, who has

Politics & Policy |
October 30, 2012

The Baselice Poll

It’s hardly worth looking at Texas polling. The only suspense is how big the Republican margin is going to be. According to Baselice, it’s 16 points. [Romney 54, Obama 38]. That is a huge differential. Not so long ago it was 9. The Cruz-Sadler differential is even worse [Cruz 48,

Politics & Policy |
October 29, 2012

Is Texas democracy worse than Ukraine?

I saw this piece on a blog called Mullings. The author of the blog is Rich Galen, who I believe worked for Kay Bailey Hutchison at one time. FROM DNIPROPETROVSK, UKRAINE: I’ve been here for two days preparing for, and actually observing, the Ukrainian parliamentary elections. I was part of

Politics & Policy |
October 29, 2012

New CNN Ohio poll: Obama 50%, Romney 46%

From CNN: According to a CNN/ORC International survey released Friday [10/26], President Barack Obama holds a four point advantage over Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the contest for Ohio’s much fought over 18 electoral votes. Fifty-percent of likely voters questioned in the poll say they are backing the president, with

Politics & Policy |
October 28, 2012

Aggregating the latest polls in swing states

In each of the following swing states, I looked at the ten latest polls as aggregated by the Huffington Post. This is the source of the data that I used. The decision on whether a state is a swing state is mine, not the Huffington Post’s. Here are the results:Colorado

Politics & Policy |
October 25, 2012

Today’s Polling (10/25)

From the Huffington Post: Collectively, the new polls of the past 24 hours have done nothing to change the standings in the most crucial battleground states. Obama continued to hold leads of 2 to 3 percentage points in Ohio, Iowa, Nevada and Wisconsin, four states that currently combine with the

Politics & Policy |
October 25, 2012

New Ohio Polls

Time/SRBI — Obama 49, Romney 44Lake Research — Obama 46, Romney 44Rasmussen (automated) — Obama 48, Romney 48Survey USA (automated) — Obama 47, Romney 44HuffPost Pollster (aggregate) — Obama 48.4, Romney 45.8* * * *I would not go so far as to say that Obama has a firewall in Ohio,

Politics & Policy |
October 22, 2012

What to expect in the final debate

1. Romney will renew his criticism of Obama’s muddled explanation of the attack on the consulate at Benghazi. Obama will respond with an attack on Romney’s ill-timed press release critizing the White House’s performance. Romney will not repeat his previous (false) accusation that it took Obama two weeks to call

Politics & Policy |
October 22, 2012

“Draft Castro” movement emerges in San Antonio

From the Express-News: In the home stretch of a crucial election effort to pass his pre-K education plan, Mayor Julian Castro is being drafted for a different race, two years away. Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina launched a social media movement last week to draft Castro

Politics & Policy |
October 22, 2012

FDA questions Perry’s stem cell procedure

From the Houston Chronicle: The Food and Drug Administration has informed the Sugar Land company involved in Gov. Rick Perry’s adult stem-cell procedure that it is illegally marketing an unlicensed drug. In a warning letter, the FDA gave Celltex Therapeutics Corp. 15 business days to submit a plan to address

Politics & Policy |
October 19, 2012

The Dewhurst agenda

I’m told by sources who heard it from the horse’s mouth, that the light gov has decided on his top priorities for the 2013 session, issues he would like to see designated as “emergencies.” (They would have to be designated as emergencies by the governor.)  This is what my list

Politics & Policy |
October 16, 2012

KTRK Houston: Gallegos succumbs

From the KTRK story:“Mario Gallegos was the first Mexican American elected to the Texas Senate from Harris County. He served two terms. Gallegos was a firefighter and a senior captain for 22 years. In 2007, he was elected “Governor for a day,” an honorary position awarded to the

Politics & Policy |
October 16, 2012

Taxes for UT?

The university says that it cannot build and operate its proposed new medical school without a permanent source of funding. It is seeking an increase in local property taxes (amounting to $107.40 per homeowner for the average home), the revenue from which would help fund the medical school. Austin historically

Politics & Policy |
October 12, 2012

The vice presidential debate

The first question from moderator Martha Raddatz was about the attack on the consulate in Libya: “Wasn’t this a massive intelligence failure?” Biden could only say, “What it was, was a tragedy.” Ryan: “It took the president two weeks to say this was a terrorist attack.” Biden said Ryan’s answer

Politics & Policy |
October 10, 2012

Post-argument report on Fisher v. UT

Here is some analysis from SCOTUSblog on the day’s proceedings: Analysis Affirmative action is alive but ailing, the idea of “critical mass” to measure racial diversity is in very critical condition, and a nine-year-old precedent may have to be reshaped in order to survive.  Those were the dominant

Politics & Policy |
October 10, 2012

Tax beer? Bad ideer.

The Amarillo Globe-News recently published a story suggesting that lawmakers might contemplate raising the tax on draft beer. The tax was the suggestion of Dick Lavine, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. The beer tax hasn’t been touched for some thirty years–and it

Politics & Policy |
October 10, 2012

“Five myths about Latino voters”

This piece ran in the Washington Post on October 5. The author, Valerie Martinez-Ebers, is a professor of political science at the University of North Texas and is co-editor of the American Political Science Review. Her article follows: At their recent national conventions, the Democratic and Republican parties

Politics & Policy |
October 10, 2012

Fisher v. UT case will be argued today

This morning the Supreme Court will hear the case of Fisher v. UT, which I wrote about in our April issue. SCOTUSblog has a thorough discussion of the case, parts of which appear below: America’s Constitution embraces the cultural ideal that all persons are equal, and that

Politics & Policy |
October 9, 2012

A crucial judicial race

Texans elect the judges on the state’s two courts of last resort: the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals. Except for the legal community, voters often don’t know much about the candidates. In a contested race, they tend to vote based on the party, not on the individual.

Politics & Policy |
October 4, 2012

Romney wins first debate

It was a very good debate involving two strong candidates. Romney was in top form; Obama wasn’t. He recited his lines, but without fire or passion. It was very much like his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, which was just cheerleading. He had run out of useful things to

Politics & Policy |
October 2, 2012

One ugly debate

Yuck. That was one ugly debate between Cruz and Sadler. There was no winner, and the loser was the audience watching on TV. Moderator Brad Watson spent most of the debate trying to stop Cruz and Sadler from speaking at the same time, without much success. Sadler was unrestrained. He

Feature |
September 30, 2012

Storming the Ivory Tower

For the past four years, a group of passionate reformers has been steadily trying to remake how higher education works in Texas—over the screams and howls of many professors and school presidents. Last year the battle came to UT. And the bombs are still flying.

Politics & Policy |
September 24, 2012

“The League of Dangerous Mapmakers”

Robert Draper, my former colleague at TEXAS MONTHLY, has written a piece about redistricting in the current issue of the Atlantic. One of the main characters in his story is Tom Hofeller, the former redistricting director of the Republican National Committee, now a paid consultant and a master