There are no cardboard boxes or bubble wrap or heavy duty packing tape in Tim Stokes' 1,600-square-foot Sacramento, Calif., home. But, according to the 36-year-old, he and his pregnant wife, their three kids and their two 100-pound mastiffs are on the verge of selling the house they bought just over a year ago.
Though Stokes was born in Nevada, he has spent all but the first six months of his life in California. For most of that time, any move away from his hometown and family would have been unthinkable for him. But in the past six years, Stokes, who is a Republican, said the political climate and the seemingly unstoppable swing further to the left in California have become unbearable.
"It's the simple fact that I'm trying to raise a family," he said, before adding that he's tired of feeling like an outsider in his hometown.
He is a regular voter and in recent years has voted against a long list of proposals. He opposed a hike in gas taxes, the legalization of marijuana and Proposition 57, which allows the early release of some nonviolent offenders from prison in order to alleviate overcrowding. They all passed.
It is these types of unrelenting political blows, he said, that have left him feeling thwarted and outnumbered. And it is the reason behind the family's imminent move to Texas, a state where he believes he will finally be surrounded by people who share his conservative values.
That would make the family of five (almost six) part of a massive wave of Californians migrating to Texas. In fact, by some estimates there will be another 20 million people moving there by 2050.
Stokes said he'll be making the move across with the help of a company called Conservative Move whose tag line is "Helping families move Right."
Founder Paul Chabot, 42, started the company in May after making the move from San Bernadino, Calif., to McKinney, Texas, with his own family. Chabot, a Republican, had recently endured a second failed run for Congress.
Following the defeat, he and his wife concluded that their home state is controlled by what he referred to as an ultra-far-left ideology. "And that left ideology in California are largely wealthy liberal coastal elites that I believe controlled most of California through politics and fundraising and policies, hands down," he said. But, he added, "when you get to the inland part of these states — the Inland Empire, the Central Valley — these are areas where you have working poor people that are living largely impoverished and forgotten."
The company was launched in May and already, he claimed, 2,000 families have asked for his help. It's been an easy sell, he said laughing, because Republicans like Stokes — who are trapped in liberal states — are desperate to leave.
"It's because of liberal laws that have basically destroyed the infrastructure or the region," he said.
It is also helpful that the local economies and job markets in Texas, especially northern Texas, are booming. And, when compared to home prices in big, blue urban areas, the housing is remarkably affordable.
When asked to describe what the company does exactly, Chabot said, "Our primary job is to help families living in more blue states relocate to red states." In practice, he collects a commission from the buying and selling of homes.
Chabot's goal is to establish a series of communities, primarily in North Texas, where entire neighborhoods are populated by conservative Republicans. In a way, what Chabot said he is offering is a chance to step into a time machine.
"I jokingly say North Texas out here reminds me of Orange County, California, in the 1980s," he said.
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 claimed what he is after is just "a 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."
George Fuller couldn't disagree more.
Fuller is a real estate developer and the mayor of McKinney, Texas, which is in the Dallas-Fort Worth area — where Chabot lives, has based his company and is luring people to move.
While Chabot is trying to create communities around a certain set of conservative values, George Fuller is actually creating bricks and mortar communities. He is about to open a 46-acre multi-purpose project.
Although Fuller is also a conservative Republican, he said, at its core, the desire to self-segregate can be dangerous.
With the violence of Charlottesville, Va., weighing heavily on his mind, the newly elected mayor acknowledged that Americans have been choosing to "live in bubbles" for decades but he insisted it can leave people out of practice when confronting a person with a different point of view.
His suggestion: "I think instead of just trying to kind of 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 going forward versus insulating yourself from different thoughts and ideologies."
And, he argues, Chabot's dream is probably short-lived given the influx of newcomers to Texas. Yes, many may be conservatives seeking refuge in a conservative state, but it's just as likely many are liberals moving for reasons unrelated to politics. Yet, once they arrive in the red-voting state, their progressive views will have some influence on politics and legislation.
As evidence, he points to the results of the 2016 presidential election in the state. Forty-three percent of Texans voted for Hillary Clinton.
So, Fuller cautions all conservative movers to temper their expectations: The Lone Star State might get more blue.
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. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.