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

Stewart Tagg, 69, moved from the Bay Area to Green Valley, Ariz. to escape liberal politics and high taxes. Tagg, a retired engineer, is at his Arizona home on March 13th, 2019. (Photo by James S. Wood for Bay Area News Group)

San JoseRetired 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…

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