moving to Idaho

Christa Trinchera poses for a photo at her home in Idaho Falls on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. Trinchera says she moved to Idaho in June because of its politics not in spite of them.

Four days before Christa Trinchera’s move to Idaho Falls, her home city of Sacramento erupted in protests. George Floyd had just been killed. Trinchera worked as a California law enforcement chaplain. She began receiving notifications from work warning that police may become targets for attack. She imagined the houses of her colleagues bombed, flags burned, guns drawn.

“For the first time in my life, I couldn’t close my eyes at night. I was in fear. It was a terrifying experience because I felt like we were on our own. We were outnumbered as far as people that think the way we do. And I couldn’t get out of there fast enough,” Trinchera said.

Trinchera moved to Idaho Falls from Sacramento in June. She and her husband grew up in California, went to college there and raised their children there. Now, nearing retirement age, the couple realized it wasn’t where they wanted to grow old.

“As conservative Christians, it was becoming more and more difficult to stomach what was happening in California. Our tax dollars, they were funding these things that we didn’t vote for. Our voices were not being heard in California,” Trinchera said.

Idaho is the fastest-growing state in the country. Many of Idaho’s newest residents are coming from blue states. They leave places such as California and Washington for a number of reasons, including lower housing costs, lower taxes and job opportunities.

But Trinchera is part of a growing number of people moving to Idaho for a different reason: escaping liberal politics.

“You couldn’t speak freely about your beliefs in California. People would wish harm on you. We wanted to be able to fly whatever flag we want. Whether it’s the American flag, the Blue Lives flag or the Trump flag and not worry about someone burning down our house,” Trinchera said.

According to a 2019 UC Berkeley Institute of Government Studies poll, more than half of Californians have considered moving. The biggest predictor for whether a Golden State resident wants to stay or go? Political affiliation. The poll found that Republicans were nearly twice as likely to be considering leaving California — 71% of Republicans compared to 38% of Democrats. Political affiliation was a better predictor of respondents’ answers than any other type of demographic, including race, gender and age.

Paul Chabot has made a business of those preferences. In 2017, he founded Conservative Move, a company that helps conservatives move to red states. Conservative Move connects movers with like-minded agents who will help them sell homes, buy houses and even find jobs. Conservative Move receives about a quarter of the 3% commission its participating real estate agents earn from assisting in the sale or purchase of a home.

Idaho is the second most popular state for his customers to move. Only Texas is in higher demand.

“I know a lot of people in Idaho from the Republican side worry about Democrats moving to Idaho, but the people we’re working with are Republicans from California, Seattle, Portland who are just disgusted with Democrat politics and are making the move to red states like Idaho,” Chabot said.

Chabot is a former Californian himself. Previously a White House senior policy advisor on law enforcement for both Clinton and Bush, he currently serves as a Lieutenant Commander of Naval Intelligence with the United States Navy Reserve. After a lifetime on the West Coast, he packed up his family and moved to McKinney, Texas, following the 2016 election in which he lost his bid for the U.S. House to represent California’s 31st District. He lost to a Democrat. Chabot said it was an event that made him realize how much the area had changed since he was a child.

“At that point, we realized if people don’t want the help, there’s very little you can do to help them. So we decided, you know what, we’re going to move somewhere that reminded us of where we grew up in regards to a great economy, great schools, low crime,” Chabot said.

James Gimpel is a professor at the University of Maryland who specializes in political geography and has conducted research on the relationship between relocation and political parties. According to his data, while economics has always been the biggest reason for moving, politics has begun to be more of a factor in recent years.

Economics still plays a role in the decision to move for many conservatives coming to Idaho. But for some, the financial motivations are impossible to disentangle from the political motivations. That certainly was the case for the Trincheras.

“We thought, ‘OK all of this tax money that is going to things we don’t believe in, we could be putting in our daughter’s trust.’ And we’re foolish if we fund these things that are contributing to the downfall of California. I don’t want to be a part of that anymore,” Trinchera said.

Gimpel has also found that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to move to an area that fits their values.

“I think it’s a little more pronounced for Republicans. We’re not exactly sure why that is,” Gimpel said in an interview with CBC radio. “It could be that Republicans on average are a little more ideological. And it could be that Republicans on average have more choice.”

It has been one month since Rene Alldridge, her husband and four young children moved to Idaho Falls from Puyallup, Washington. She said their biggest priority when it came to where to move was finding somewhere with high-speed internet, since it is so necessary to her husband’s job. But their second-biggest priority was finding somewhere they would feel “safe expressing our views.”

“Back where we were from, it was dangerous. It was downright dangerous to be Republican and have such a far-right view on everything. My husband can’t even post anything online on the Republican side, otherwise he has a fear of losing his job. That’s how corrupt big corporate America is in Seattle,” Alldridge said.

Her husband’s Seattle company frequently participates in LGBT Pride rallies and parades, but the Alldridges were afraid to “stand up and speak up” about their beliefs against those things. Alldridge is also “very strong-voiced for medical freedom.” She has chosen not to vaccinate her younger children and was nervous Washington might soon pass legislation forcing her to do so. She likes that “there’s not as much government overreach and control in Idaho.”

Since coming to Idaho Falls, Alldridge, “absolutely” feels more comfortable expressing her views. Her son recently requested a “Make America Great Again” hat now that he lives in a place he can “wear it proudly.”

“I want my kids to know that it’s OK to love our country and we feel like we can finally do that here,” Alldridge said. “People coming here, for the most part, are wanting to keep Idaho the way it is.”

Both Alldridge and Trinchera have noticed that many longtime locals are of the opinion that those coming in from West Coast states want to bring liberal politics and big-city ways to Idaho Falls. Alldridge has had people express this on her Facebook posts. Trinchera said some even refused her service when they saw her California license plates. Both were confused, because it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“When we came to Idaho, we didn’t come here to change Idaho. We came here because we love what Idaho is,” Trinchera said.

Recommended for you