For a magazine attentive to politics, there is a topic that has been surprisingly slow to dawn at Texas Monthly: the potential for Texas to become more politically competitive between the two major parties. Paul Burka confessed as much in his excellent Burka Blog earlier this year after Politico raised a ruckus about the Democrats’ Battleground Texas initiative. And Silverstein acknowledges that the conventional political wisdom in Texas holds that Abbott will be the next governor, conservative voters will outnumber liberal ones, and Republicans will continue to win at the voting booth and dominate the state capital. (Not that the magazine hasn’t recognized change in Texas: the 40th Anniversary issue, in February of 2013, was devoted to the explosive growth of urban Texas, which will also have political consequences.)

“It would stand to reason [Texas] has to go blue at some point,” says Silverstein. “But it is still a Republican state, a conservative state… It’s Abbott’s to lose. Can he lose it? Sure.” If the magazine has a bias, he says, it really is toward the narrative of conflict—like any journalism, of course. There’s bound to be plenty of conflict ahead, with a gubernatorial election next year and the potential for a Texan in the 2016 presidential race. The Texas Monthly seems poised to take on those coming battles and the related journalistic responsibilities.

With a lot less fanfare than his predecessor, Silverstein has managed “the national magazine of Texas”—as the Monthly proclaims itself right on the cover now, reviving an old tag line—through some dangerous times: a leadership transition, a recession and long-term trends which have forced even the mightiest magazines to fold. He has subtly but firmly put his imprimatur on the venture. Newsstand sales and ad pages edged upward last year as the industry slipped downward. Under Silverstein, and unlike any glossy magazine left standing but The New Yorker, Texas Monthly does serious in a compelling, even slicker and cooler way than it used to—even slicker and cooler than its offices. And that’s saying something.

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Richard Parker is an award-winning journalist and the author of Lone Star Nation: How Texas Will Transform America, from Pegasus Books. Follow him on Twitter @Richard85Parker.