How Liberal Politics, COVID-19 and a High Cost of Living are Fueling a New California Exodus

Cori Sarno Villacres talks on Oct. 21, 2020, about how she and her family didn’t feel comfortable or safe in California — even feeling bullied for their political preferences. They left their life in Sacramento last April to start anew in Idaho. BY DARIN OSWALD

Rich Threadgill was born and raised in California and loved his home state. Until he didn’t. The Navy veteran is a gun fan, but he felt he couldn’t talk about his hobby or express other conservative opinions without running the risk of making someone angry. This summer, when his employer allowed employees to telework from out of state for lower pay, the 39-year-old human resources officer surprised himself. He sold his Rancho Cordova home and moved the family to Idaho, where he’ll build a house for less than he sold his California home. He says he feels more relaxed in a rural environment where people are more conservative and, to his mind, more congenial. “We love it,” he said. “In California, if you express your beliefs, you can be outright attacked,” he said. Threadgill is among a wave of hundreds of thousands of Californians leaving the state in the last few years. Last year alone, nearly 200,000 more people left the state than moved in. Most likely did it for economic reasons. The cost of living, particularly housing, is now far higher in California than almost anywhere else in the United States. But a turbulent 2020 has added new motivations for migration. Amid coronavirus shutdowns, wildfires, street protests, and a tense election-year political environment, some say California’s “charm” has finally worn too thin. Click to read more at