Tag Archives: Paul Burka

Can’t we get a do-over?

Paul Burka apparently came out of retirement — perhaps just briefly — to write this scathing critique for TexasMonthly.com of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.


To sum up Burka’s analysis: Paxton’s public service career has been totally without accomplishment, yet he won the race for AG this past year because the state’s current TEA party golden boy, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, endorsed him.

Now the AG is facing a possible criminal indictment in his hometown of McKinney. A special prosecutor is going to take a complaint of securities fraud to a Collin County grand jury. If the attorney general is indicted, what happens then?

Burka noted that a Texas Monthly colleague asked Gov. Greg Abbott that question, and the government couldn’t/wouldn’t answer.

This appears to be one of those times when Texas voters should ask for a do-over from the most recent election.

I know it’s not possible, but I can wish for it anyway … can’t I?


So long, Texas Senate civility

It took Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick no time at all to get his wish as the man who runs the Texas Senate.

The Republican super-majority that now comprises the 31-member legislative body has done away with the two-thirds rule.

As Texas Monthly blogger/editor Paul Burka notes, it signals the end of “adult behavior” in the Legislature’s upper chamber.

Here’s what Burka wrote: “The death of the two-thirds rule was inevitable from the moment that Dan Patrick defeated David Dewhurst in the primary. Patrick has always opposed the rule, even before he became a senator. The Democrats’ reduced strength in the Senate made it all but impossible for the remaining members of their party to muster the ability to fend off the majority (one Democrat, Eddie Lucio Jr., joined the Republicans in the vote).

“I have always been a fan of the two-thirds rule because it gave the minority a fighting chance to take on the majority and it required a level of bridge-building and consensus to pass legislation. On a more basic level, it imposed ‘adult behavior on people who might be otherwise inclined.’ Unfortunately for the Democrats, their party just doesn’t have the numbers to fend off the majority, so Patrick doesn’t have to worry about bridge-building, consensus, or adult behavior as the presiding officer.”


The only party crossover vote was Lucio, according to Burka, who made no mention of whether Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, crossed over to the other side to preserve the two-thirds rule — which Seliger has said repeatedly that he favors.

I’m guessing Seliger sided with his GOP brethren to show unity among the ranks.

This tradition has lasted through the decades as lieutenant governors of both parties have honored the rule of requiring two-thirds of senators to approve of a bill before sending it to the floor for a vote.

Patrick laid down his marker early in his 2014 campaign by declaring that a simple majority of Republicans ought to be enough to decide the fate of any Senate bill.

Bridge-building between the parties? Who needs it? Lt. Gov. Patrick got his way.

Now the fun can really begin.


Dan Patrick to take office flush with campaign cash

Dan Patrick is a cash-raising machine.

The new Texas lieutenant governor is going to take office next week with about $4 million in leftover campaign money. He’ll put it away, sit on it for, oh, the next three years or so.

Then he’ll get to decide whether he (a) wants to seek re-election or (b) go for the next highest office in the state, governor, the one that will be occupied by his fellow Republican Greg Abbott.


As the Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka has noted, there can be no other reason than a possible governor’s race in 2018 to explain why Patrick raised so much money to become the state’s lieutenant governor.

Gov. Abbott had better watch his back.

Patrick’s presence as presiding officer of the Texas Senate is going to put a lot of pressure on Abbott to ensure that he remains faithful to the TEA party principles on which he ran in 2014. He’ll have to persist in suing President Obama every chance he gets at least until Obama leaves office in January 2017. He’ll have to keep the lid on Medicaid expansion. He’ll have to promote tax cuts — even if they damage the state’s ability to provide essential government services.

All this is essential to the TEA party wing’s platform. Lt. Gov. Patrick is the TEA partyer in chief, so he’ll be watching with a keen eye to ensure that the governor toes the line.

As the saying goes, money does talk.


End of a Texas era is about to end

One of my favorite Texas political observers, pundits, commentators and thinkers is about to call it a career.

Paul Burka is retiring in March from Texas Monthly after a 40-year career commenting on Texas politics, government and public policy.

I haven’t met Burka, but I hope to shake his hand one day before one of us checks out. I’ve read his work extensively over the 30-plus years I’ve lived and worked in Texas. He brings considerable heft to any political discussion.


He includes a lengthy email sent to Texas Monthly staffers from editor Brian Sweany.

Sweany notes in his email the many contributions Burka made to the magazine, including one of my favorite essays, the 1986 cover story about how the Chevrolet Suburban had been named the “National Car of Texas.” His best-worst list of Texas legislators has become a political staple every other year.

I enjoy including Burka’s thoughts in my own blog and I usually rely on his expertise about political matters relating to our great state.

The man knows the ropes. He has, as the saying goes in Texas, earned his spurs.

Good luck and Godspeed, Mr. Burka.

Davis's political future is clouded … at best

This is tough for a Texas liberal such as yours truly to acknowledge, but a well-known political observer is likely correct about Wendy Davis’s future in state politics.

She doesn’t appear to have one.


Texas Monthly blogger Paul Burka notes in a brief post that Davis, a Democrat, managed to parlay a thought-to-be-competitive governor’s race in 2014 into a rout — for the Republican, Gov.-elect Greg Abbott.

Her loss in the governor’s race was worse than the percentage Tony Sanchez rang up against Rick Perry in 2002. Hey, whatever happened to Sanchez?

Burka said Davis is making some noise about seeking another public office. Where? Doing what?

I’m not prone to piling on here, but Davis ought to take a bit of a break from seeking to serve in some public capacity. She is a lawyer, after all, and she can kick-start a private practice in Tarrant County.

I was one of those Texans who had hope that Davis at least could make a race of the contest for governor. She entered the campaign with the wind at her back. She then managed to do a 180 and turned a tailwind into a headwind. Her campaign never got traction.

She lost the contest by 20-some percentage points.

Should she run again? No, Wendy. No!

At least not for a while.



Abbott getting good early reviews

Texas Gov.-elect Greg Abbott is getting some good reviews from at least one unlikely source.

They’re coming from Texas Monthly blogger/editor Paul Burka, who salutes Abbott for (a) setting a constructive agenda for the state and (b) selecting a team of grownups to advise him.


Burka, of course, isn’t always kind to Republican politicians, given the sharply rightward shift the GOP has taken during the past decade or longer.

I share some of what Burka says about Abbott. However, I’ll withhold further comment on the new governor after I see how he handles the TEA party pressure he’s going to get from Republicans who comprise super-majorities in both legislative chambers.

The TEA party politician in chief is going to be the lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, who will preside over the Texas Senate for the next four years.

Rest assured that Patrick will have his eyes focused sharply on Abbott, pressuring him to keep tacking to the right on spending and perhaps even on some social issues near and dear to TEA party followers’ hearts.

Some folks are suggesting that Patrick might challenge Abbott in four years if the governor doesn’t govern the way he wants.

How will Abbott respond to the pressure that many of us think will come? He can remind Patrick that he — Abbott — is the governor and that the governor speaks for the state.

Lt. Gov. Patrick might not see it that way.

Hang tough, Gov. Abbott.


Davis might be making a race of it?

Paul Burka is a smart pundit.

He writes for Texas Monthly and has been around the state’s political pea patch far longer than I have.


But he might have stars in his eyes when he predicts that Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis is going to make a serious run at Republican foe Greg Abbott in the race for governor.

Then again, Burka is a smart guy who knows the lay of the land.

The Davis-Abbott race is tightening some, according to a recent Texas Lyceum poll, which seems to make Burka happy.

I join him in that happiness — if Davis can sustain whatever momentum she might have gained from a strong debate performance against Abbott.

Will she win? Not likely. However, I’ve long wanted a tight race for the top of the ballot if only to keep Texas Republicans somewhat honest and humble. I’ve never been a big fan of one-party dominance, no matter which party is the top dog. Democrats and Republicans have ways of getting cocky, arrogant and too self-assured when governing. They forget that their state — wherever it is — comprises residents of the “other” persuasion.

I’m still hoping Davis can make Abbott work for this victory if that’s where the stars are aligning.

Poll standing aside, I am not yet confident it’s going to be a close race to the finish. I hope I’m wrong.

Let's hear the rebel yell!

A story that has gotten past a lot of folks, including me, involves a license plate emblem.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Texans should be able to display a Confederate flag on their vehicle plates.


I happen to agree with the ideas posted on the link attached to this post. The blogger Paul Burka notes that the Confederacy symbolizes a “terrible episode from America’s past.”

My many Texans friends who are proud of their Confederate heritage have taken issue with those of us who dislike what the Stars and Bars stands for. They have told me the flag represents pride for their state, that it’s just about “states’ rights” and all that stuff.

Burka’s view is that it stands for denigration of human beings held in slavery as well. Yes it does.

It also symbolizes a group of states that sought to dismember the Union. The states went to war against the federal government. They fired those cannon balls at Fort Sumter, S.C. in 1861 and committed a heinous act of treason against the United States of America.

All this reminds me of the bumper stickers one sees on Texas motor vehicles that proclaim the desire to secede once again. My favorite remains the one on the back of my neighbor’s pickup, which has “SECEDE” right next to a U.S. Army unit patch … which tells me he’s a self-proclaimed “proud American” who wants Texas to withdraw from the very country for which he proclaims his love.


These pro-secession goofballs just don’t get it.

Yes, it’s disappointing, indeed, that the state will be able to issue these license plates.

State missing road-building opportunity

Perhaps you’ve noticed over a period of time that I like referring to Paul Burka’s blog on Texas Monthly’s website. It provides grist for my own commentary.

His latest item refers to Texas road construction and maintenance.


I believe Burka, who’s a smart guy and well-versed in all things relating to Texas government, has glossed over an essential point in extolling the need for the state to pump more money into its highway fund.

It is this: Texas’s economy is built significantly on fossil fuel exploration and development. Therefore, it is in the state’s economic interest — at this time and likely for the foreseeable future — to enable motorists to travel safely on its roads, highways and bridges. Why? Because the vast majority of motor vehicles traveling through the state are powered by gasoline, which comes from those fossil fuels pulled from the ground in Texas.

Burka notes that the state hasn’t raised its gas tax since 1991. He adds correctly that given the mood of the state political leadership, it seems unlikely the Legislature would increase the tax. It’s a matter of politics interfering with good policy.

Do I want to pay more for gasoline when the need arises? No. However, if the revenue were to bolster the state highway fund and create a safer driving environment for my family and me, then I’m all for it.

It’s not that the state is doing nothing. As Burka writes: “The Legislature has proposed a constitutional amendment, to be voted on by the public in November, to provide $1.3 billion for highway projects. Even so, the dollars provided by the amendment will be a drop in the bucket for roadbuilding.”

Texans comprise a mobile society. Those of us who live out here in the vast expanse of West Texas understand that you have to drive some distance to get anywhere.

Road construction and maintenance ought to be a no-brainer for a state as vast as ours — and a state that still relies heavily on fossil fuels to power its economy.

Dewhurst lost his good-government voice

Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka thinks that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst never understood the changing nature of the Texas Republican Party.

Thus, state Sen. Dan Patrick was able to beat him to become the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor.


I want to posit another notion. It is that Dewhurst lost his voice when he tried to outscream the far right wing of his party.

His former voice was one that endorsed good government. He tried to break into the ranks of the tea party wing of the GOP by sounding like them. It turned out he wasn’t very fluent in tea party-speak.

He said all those things about being tough on illegal immigration, about cutting taxes and fighting to abolish the Affordable Care Act. He just wasn’t very good at spouting that kind of rhetoric.

So now David Dewhurst is officially a lame duck. The 2015 Legislature will convene without him. Patrick or Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte will preside over the Senate.

Patrick speaks the tea party language. Van de Putte speaks the language of good government.

We’ll know in due course if the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor will be true to her own voice and her own set of principles. David Dewhurst lost his voice — and his way.