Texas Becoming A Magnet For Conservatives Fleeing Liberal States Like California
A MARTINEZ, HOST:
Out in California where some conservatives are getting tired of feeling like outsiders. Their dream - to live among like-minded neighbors in Republican-leaning places. As NPR's Vanessa Romo reports, some are choosing Texas.
VANESSA ROMO, BYLINE: What's a man supposed to do when the place he's lived his entire life starts to feel strange and unfamiliar?
TIM STOKES: I grew up out in the county here in Sacramento. And we had pigs and chickens and geese and all that stuff.
ROMO: That is no longer the Sacramento Tim Stokes and his family live in. The Sacramento of today, he says, is all cookie cutter suburbs, sad excuses for backyards and interminable make-you-want-to-punch-a-fist-through-the-windshield kind of traffic. That's why he's starting to look at his home through the eyes of a potential buyer.
STOKES: I have to sell my house. In order to do that, I have to repaint the house and make some alterations, you know, redo the kitchen and whatnot.
ROMO: Stokes, his three kids, his pregnant wife, Chris, and their two hundred-pound Mastiffs are following a wave of Californians making a move southeast to Texas. In fact, by some estimates, there will be another 20 million people living there by 2050. For Stokes, it's not just the cheaper real estate prices that are calling.
STOKES: It's honestly, it's everything. The politics in Sacramento, in general, have made it to where the middle-class hardworking American is - it's unaffordable to stay here. And it's the simple fact that I'm trying to raise a family.
ROMO: Stokes, who's 36 and a Republican, says he's a regular voter and that makes it worse. He voted against a long list of issues he's staunchly against - a hike in gas taxes, marijuana legalization, prison reforms. And they all passed. And it's left him feeling thwarted and outnumbered and why he wants to move. Enter Paul Chabot.
PAUL CHABOT: Our primary job is to help families living in more blue states relocate to red states.
ROMO: Chabot's idea - more of a business plan, actually - is to create conservative Republican enclaves, where everyone shares the same values. And he's done it himself. Just a few months ago, Chabot was living in San Bernardino, Calif., except he had just endured a second failed run for Congress. After the defeat, he concluded that his home state is controlled by what he says is an ultra-far-left ideology.
CHABOT: And that left ideology in California are largely your wealthy, liberal coastal elites. But when you get to the inland part of the states - the Inland Empire, the Central Valley - these are areas where you have people that are living largely impoverished and forgotten.
ROMO: In a way, what Chabot is offering by connecting families with realtors on the buying and selling ends, helping them move and taking a commission for it - it's like he's offering them a time machine.
CHABOT: I jokingly say North Texas out here reminds me of Orange County California in the 1980s.
ROMO: When pushed to consider if there are any downsides to what he's doing - encouraging people to stick with their own kind, discouraging them from having neighbors with different points of view - Chabot says what he's after can be explained as a...
CHABOT: Strong sense of community, where you feel really good about the people that are around you because they somehow - you just mentally connect with what it is that they want.
ROMO: But George Fuller completely disagrees. He's the mayor of McKinney, Texas, where Chabot now lives, has his company and is luring people to move. Fuller, who is also a conservative Republican, says at its core, the desire to self-segregate can be dangerous.
GEORGE FULLER: Instead of trying to put together pockets of like-minded, I would think energy is better spent trying to figure out how to live and exist together and find productive solutions forward versus insulating yourself from different thoughts, different ideologies.
ROMO: While Chabot is building a theoretical panacea, Fuller is building a bricks and mortar version. He's a real estate developer. And he argues conservatives as well as liberals are swarming to the state and that tide can't be reversed in Texas. Just look at the presidential election turnout - 43 percent of Texans voted for Hillary Clinton. Vanessa Romo, NPR News, Washington.