Exodus: As Bay Area moves left, these conservative voters move out

Retired engineer Stewart Tagg spent four decades in the Bay Area
— appreciating the blue skies, good schools and strong
economy.

But in recent years, his home changed too much for his liking:
higher taxes, an open immigration policy and no end in sight to the
state’s liberal direction

Tagg, 69, sold his San Jose home and moved his family to Arizona
in 2014. He used a simple calculation to justify it: 70 percent
politics, 30 percent taxes.

“I’m a good old Republican,” Tagg said. “I just saw the
writing on the wall.”

The Bay Area has become one of the most popular places in the
country to leave in recent years. About 64,300 residents exited the
region, many for other states, between 2015 and 2018, according to
a recent survey by Joint Venture Silicon Valley.

But along with the high cost of living, politics has become a
key component pushing some out of the liberal region. One-party
domination in Sacramento and constant chafing
with neighbors has driven conservative Bay Area refugees
to communities in Texas, Idaho, Colorado and Florida. Former
residents say their views on immigration and taxes put them on the
margins of a region they once embraced.

Between 2008 and 2018, the number of registered Republicans in
five counties — Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa and
San Francisco — plummeted 20 percent. Democrats now outnumber
Republicans by more than three to one. Statewide, independents now
outnumber GOP members.

Republicans were more likely to say they were going to leave the
Bay Area in the next few years than residents with more liberal
views, according to a poll of 1,568 registered voters conducted in
February for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and this news
organization.

Republicans in their prime working years were most emphatic
about leaving, with about 6 in 10 saying they want to hit the road,
compared to 44 percent of all those surveyed.

Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, said
the survey reflects a broader unease in residents across the
political spectrum. “We hate to see anyone feeling forced out of
the Bay Area due to high housing costs and high cost of living,”
he said.

To be sure, real estate agents and economists say the primary
motives for leaving the Bay Area remain economic. The region is one
of the most expensive in the country, and the dearth of new
construction has inflated housing costs.

San Jose State political scientist Larry Gerston said the
region’s rising taxes have pinched many high-income residents,
while low-income residents are burdened by the high cost of
living.

Republicans have little voice to stop higher taxes in
Sacramento, adding to the frustration, he said. “The Bay Area has
been very consistent in voting itself more taxes,” Gerston said.
“If you’re Republican, you can’t win.”

Sometimes, the urge to get out crosses party boundaries.

San Francisco Republican Party chairman Jason Clark said he’s
watched several fellow conservatives leave for Texas and Arizona.
But he’s also noticed more liberals leaving the Bay Area for
Northern California, where previously red congressional districts
are turning blue.

“They’ve had enough,” Clark said. “There are people who
are middle class who feel like they’re being pushed out of their
neighborhoods.”

Real estate agents hear the stories of change from longtime
residents. San Jose agent Sandy Jamison asks sellers a simple
question: “Why?”

Homeowners eventually warm to the conversation, she said. And
they go there — anger at welfare programs and weak immigration
enforcement. “Politics is definitely a big one,” Jamison said.
“They want to feel a sense of community again.”

In her marketing materials, Jamison spells out the top reasons
for leaving the Bay Area: “Liberties — From gun control to rent
control to vaccinations and home schooling, sellers are finding
fewer restrictions on their way of life among other states.”

In Idaho, Boise agent Kerri O’Hara said “an extreme
influx” of Californians has reached the state capital in the
last two or three years. “Californians seem to be very
politically driven,” she said. The newcomers are more amenable to
the libertarian streak in the red state, she said.

O’Hara said her clients regularly share horror stories from
the Bay Area, usually about the high rates of homelessness and
public defecation in San Francisco. “I’ve heard every story
with the feces,” she said.

Many former residents say they felt alienated before they
left.

When Jim DeStefano moved to San Jose in 1971, he could hear the
cows mooing in the fields down the street. Country living appealed
to the Brooklyn native, brought west for a job with GE Nuclear
Power.

He voted for his candidates — sometimes Democrats, lately
Republicans. DeStefano became upset with Gov. Jerry Brown’s
policies, tax hikes and the influx of immigrants.

DeStefano, 72, and his wife bought a home and moved into a gated
retirement community in Fort Meyers, Florida, in late 2017. He
bicycles five miles a day, photographs egrets and alligators, and
regularly attends Friday night potlucks with neighbors.

“I have developed more new friends and neighbors in four
months here,” he said, “than I developed in 40 years in San
Jose.”

DeStefano, like most in his retirement community, embraces
President Donald Trump. Military veterans install flagpoles and
hand out flags to new residents. One of the most popular classes at
the community center was gun safety for seniors.

“California will become the next Venezuela in five years,”
DeStefano said. “You’ll have the super rich and the
impoverished class.” The rest — middle class workers, retirees
and everyone outside the wealthy tech bubble — will flee like
him.

Jeff Heuser, a retired nurse, grew up in Southern California and
settled in San Jose. He’s grown more conservative, and had a few
loud disputes with neighbors and a confrontation at Trader Joe’s
over politics.

Heuser visited Panama and Thailand, searching for a new home.
Politics was “99 percent” of the reason for a move, he
said.

Last year, Heuser sold his condo and bought a five-bedroom home
in Colorado Springs, a deep-red region home to the Air Force
Academy and the conservative group Focus on the Family.

Heuser, 63, quickly embraced the culture. He bought a new
handgun, got his concealed carry permit and shoots at a local range
three to four times a week. He switched his voter registration from
Democratic in California to Republican in Colorado and cast his
first vote in November.

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He feels more comfortable talking politics in his new community. 
“I’ve tempered my passion,” Heuser said. “I realize I scare
some people.”

In Arizona, Tagg’s new hometown in a gated, 55-plus community
in Green Valley outside of Tucson, is popular with other Bay Area
refugees, he said. They have plenty of hobbies and distractions,
and most share a red-state view of the world.

Tagg still visits California, spending vacations in the Sierra
Nevada. But the Bay Area, he said, “is really not worth
it.”

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
Exodus: As Bay Area moves left, these conservative voters move out