Just before he was turfed out of his Tennessee congressional seat in 1836, Davy Crockett famously told his constituents that, should they not reelect him, they “might go to hell, and I would go to Texas.” Failed California congressional candidate Paul Chabot has made a similar move, even if his rationale isn’t as coarse.
Not long before his defeat at the polls in November 2016, Chabot—a Republican who was then living in Rancho Cucamonga—read an article from Time Inc.’s Money that named McKinney as America’s third best place to live. Inspired, he and his wife and four children moved to the booming Collin County city just north of Dallas shortly after he was beat out for California’s thirty-first congressional district for the second time.
Chabot fell so deeply in love with McKinney that he began publicly urging others to join him there and in other nearby Dallas suburbs like Frisco, Plano, and Allen. And much like Crockett, many are following him to Texas, fleeing a state that, in Chabot’s words, is “overrun by illegals, drug addicts, and violent criminals under the umbrella of a radical liberal ideology that has destroyed the state.”
And Chabot is cashing in on his evangelizing. He founded Conservative Move, a company that helps relocate right-wing folks out of blue states like California, in June. As the company’s slogan states, Chabot is “helping families move Right.” Marooned conservatives explore the idea of moving to North Texas, set up a consultation with Conservative Move, and the company finds realtors to sell clients’ blue state homes and then purchase property in North Texas. Then these newly-minted Texans can “enjoy the life [they] deserve among friends” while Chabot banks a percentage of the real estate commissions.
“We are reaching out to conservatives who are living in very blue areas,” Chabot says. “Our personal story seems to resonate with people who felt like we do. We’ve already got about 1,000 people who want to move.”
Modern day Collin County—free, in his mind, of the widespread ills of his home state—reminds Chabot of the Orange County, California of his youth. “It’s very new and modern, lots of schools and families, and a lot of Californians might come here and think it’s not actually that different from California from a visual perspective in terms of schools, houses, businesses, great jobs, freeways, et cetera.”
The California conservative experience is one of endless frustration, Chabot says. He grew tired of paying high taxes to support a government he doesn’t align with. Among his grievances is the skyrocketing gas tax: Texans pay 20 cents a gallon, whereas Golden State drivers will be paying a total of 58 cents a gallon by 2019, placing it behind only Pennsylvania. He also points out that the state Senate recently passed a $400 billion single-payer health care bill, which Chabot took as a death knell to the California dream. “[It] would never have passed if the Republicans were not a super-minority,” he says. “There is no stopping it now. There is a pure one-party system in California now so for those of us who remain, the only thing the system is doing is pushing initiatives that we have to pay for but we don’t agree with.”
Chabot, an adjunct professor of political science at California Baptist University and a Gulf War Navy veteran, says that what began as a simple desire to bring like-minded people to North Texas has evolved into a philosophical journey. “There’s really a second purpose behind Conservative Move that I didn’t think about when I created it,” he explains. “What makes up a great community? The bottom line is, where do parents want to raise their kids? They want great schools, they want safe streets. They want good jobs with good wages. Those are core attributes.”
But it’s also a money-making venture, which Chabot is frank about. “I am excited about the opportunity to not only make money—and this is a capitalist idea, no doubt about it—but personally, for me, it allows me as a conservative to talk about what makes up a great community,” he says.
The thrust of Conservative Move’s pitch comes from Chabot’s personal experience. Texas’s more conservative public school system is a key factor in enticing families like Chabot’s to Texas, ranking second only to the lower cost of living. “In California, my wife and I are basically house-broke,” Chabot says. “All folks can do is afford to pay the mortgage or the rent. By all economic standards in California, we were lower middle class, and we have four kids, and three of them are girls. I did not want to put them in the public school system.”
That is not the case in McKinney, where Chabot feels the public schools are both safe and conservative enough for his children’s education. “They are standing up doing the pledge of allegiance,” he explains. “I don’t have to worry about a man or a boy coming in the restroom with them, which freaked me out as a father back home. You can put your kids in school here.”
Chris Keeble, who grew up in California and settled in the Houston area decades ago, is Chabot’s polar opposite politically. Still, the vegan yoga enthusiast—albeit one who is fiercely protective of the right to bear arms—sympathizes with Chabot. “I don’t blame the California conservatives for wanting to leave—they feel powerless and like everything that matters to them is going to shit,” Keeble says. “Which is exactly how [liberals] feel here in Texas.”
Over the past ten years, roughly one in every hundred Texans and Californians swapped places. The trend extends to the entire West Coast, at least in terms of Texas out-migration. At least 5,000 Texans moved to Oregon in 2014, placing us behind only Arizona and neighbors California and Washington. And in 2014, for the first time ever, more Texans than Oregonians moved to the Seattle area—at a little over 4,000, that number has doubled since 1999.
It would be a gross oversimplification to paint this back and forth as purely political: not every Texan who heads west is looking for a liberal paradise, nor the reverse for Californians coming here. In fact, with the influx of Californians moving to Texas, the reverse could be true. “California exports its poor to Texas, other states, while wealthier people move in,” the Sacramento Bee reported in March. And generally speaking, lower-income people trend blue.
But what if Chabot’s movement catches on, and disaffected middle-class California Republicans pour in? Motivated in large part by ideology, it seems likely that they would vote at a disproportionately high rate. That’s something that worries Keeble. “I don’t see how it can’t end terribly,” he says, adding that the one-party system here in Texas would “collapse in corruption and mismanagement eventually.” But on the flip side, he notes that a mass exodus of Democratic voters raises the possibility that “California’s budget woes will get even worse.” “I think the communities losing these people might not be better off, honestly,” Keeble continues. “I think a balance is needed.”
It’s safe to say that Chabot, on a quest to establish a conservative utopia in the Dallas suburbs, might not see it the same way.