They came to Texas for the big houses and the barbecue

There was a lot to love about Austin when Kevin Longley moved a month and a half ago from Montgomery County to Maryland. His wife had gotten a promotion in his tech company, and their new town already had a solid reputation as a cheaper, cooler Silicon Valley. They bought a 3,000 square foot, five bedroom house, much larger than they could afford outside of DC.

Then. In July, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting government entities, including public schools, from requiring masks or vaccination (the Texas Supreme Court dismissed his request last month), despite Rising death toll in the state: More than 6,000 Texans died from covid-19 last month. On September 1, legislation allowing Texans to carry handguns in public without a license or background check and previously required state training came into effect. On the same day, the Supreme Court refused to block a Texas law that banned abortions from six weeks pregnant, one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. (The Department of Justice sued Texas to challenge the law.) On September 7, Abbott enacted a bill that creates tough new voting rules in the state.

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For the newly stricken Texans who had migrated from bluer pastures, even just one of these laws would be a lot to take. And now, all, within two months?

“It’s hard to believe that some of these laws actually exist,” says Longley. “And then you look around and you’re like, ‘Oh. Wait. This is our condition. This is where we live.'”

From the depths of the pandemic, Texas has beckoned, with its spacious and affordable four-bedroom homes with courtyards and pools, big-city amenities, quirky charm, and excellent dining scene. Texas Realtors’ Texas Relocation Report 2021 found that more than half a million people moved to Texas from other states in 2019, the latest year for which data was available. Many Texans have noticed an influx from California in particular – some even commuting between the two states – and William Fulton, director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, detailed it in a blog post: 2018 and 2019, just over 80,000 Californians became Texans.

Many of them have followed their work in technology. Apple, Facebook and Google have satellite offices in Austin. Oracle announced in December that it was also moving to Austin (although founder Larry Ellison didn’t: he moved to Hawaii). Hewlett-Packard announced last year that it would be moving its headquarters from San Jose to Spring, Texas, a suburb of Houston. Tesla and its chief executive, Elon Musk, moved to Austin last year, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told CNBC he spoke “frequently” with the tech billionaire.

“Elon constantly tells me that he loves the social policies of the state of Texas,” Abbott said.

“In general, I think the government should rarely impose its will on the people, and in doing so, should aspire to maximize their cumulative happiness. Having said that, I’d rather stay out of politics,” Musk tweeted in response. (A representative from SpaceX, one of Musk’s companies, did not respond to a survey of social policies in Texas Musk argues or not.)

Celebrities have also flocked, mainly to Austin: “Westworld” star James Marsden, author of “Girl, Wash Your Face” and motivational speaker Rachel Hollis, controversial podcaster Joe Rogan, who recently fell ill with covid-19. “Dawson’s Creek” star James Van Der Beek, his wife and five children posed for an Austin Life magazine report on their new ranch (“I felt an energy for Austin,” the star said) . Actresses Haylie Duff, Becca Tobin and Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who had formed a pandemic group together, moved their families to Austin as a unit. (“You don’t pay for parking anywhere,” Tobin marveled at The New York Times.) “Queer Eye” star Jonathan Van Ness was filming a season of his show in Austin and loved it so much that he and her husband decided to stay. (“I had my four cats and I was on this lake in an Airbnb, and I was like, do I love Austin? Is this a liberal stronghold in Texas? And it’s kind of the case, ”he told Self Magazine.)

Truly, the state has solved the problems of expatriates from both political poles. For the Conservatives, it was a place where they could return their children to school without a mask warrant, and own guns and not have to pay state income taxes. For the Liberals, it was – well, Austin, in particular – was a city of abundant tech jobs, a relief from the Bay Area housing market, and brimming with like-minded voters. Blueberry in a cherry pie, as an apocryphal adage from Texas goes.

“Pandemic containment put me in a lot of perspective,” says Lexx Miller, 27, who has moved from Brooklyn to Austin. “I was getting older and wanted to change the scenery, the people and the quality of life, but I still wanted to feel like I was in a big city.”

For Brian Harden, 47, of Seattle, it was taxes that made him consider moving to Texas. “They don’t have state income tax,” he noted. In addition, “My wife and I are both gun owners, and we are big supporters of the Second Amendment.”

But everything is bigger in Texas, including regrets. They immediately settled in for Tanny Martin, 66, a retired nurse who moved from Massachusetts to Austin last year to be closer to her son and enjoy a lower cost of living. A self-proclaimed “Blue State Person” and “aging hippie,” she had rationalized it by remembering that she would be moving to a liberal city.

It’s “the part of the state where people have purple hair, and it’s heartwarming,” she says. “But there’s also three percent here and, you know, secessionists, and I mean, it’s still Texas.”

The new gun law is the most terrifying part of her new home for her. Between that and the threat of covid, “I don’t go out much because I don’t really feel safe,” she says.

It also makes it difficult for newcomers to make friends.

“It’s really, really isolating when you just moved in here. You want to go see all the sights and meet new people and no one is going anywhere,” says Kyle Miller, 27, who has moved to Austin since then. Dayton, Ohio area (and not related to Lexx Miller). Seeing all the unmasked people outside, he said, was “very weird.”

And yet, the state wields a powerful lure, stuffed with its own oversized mythology, swaggering style, and the promise that life will be a little different there.

That’s what Bill Ross, 63, likes about it. When Ross moved from California, “I got nine millimeters for each member of the family,” he says. “I went out and bought an AR-15, and I think that’s a very healthy thing.”

Guns weren’t the main reason for his move. He took his family to Boerne, Texas – pronounced “Bernie”, one of the Hill Country towns of German descent – after he became dissatisfied with his son’s college in his community of Los Gatos , California, as well as state finances. and political trajectory. His only regret on leaving California, he said, was that he could not vote to recall Governor Gavin Newsom. He says Abbott is doing a good job. He supports the new electoral laws of the state.

“I don’t think they’re extreme. I think they make a lot of sense,” he says. “I think if you can’t control the vote, you can’t control the protection of the Constitution.”

The abortion law makes him think: “I don’t know if six weeks is the right thing,” he says. “I am pro-choice. I am not happy with the way abortion is used as a method of birth control.”

But Ross is thrilled with his new life in Texas. He no longer has to worry about wildfires in California. He sold his home well above asking price over the summer and was able to buy one outside of San Antonio, almost three times its size, at about a third the cost. In addition, it has a swimming pool. He loves his neighbors, who have been “very welcoming”.

“Every time people would ask, ‘Well, where are you from? We would curl up and say, ‘California,’ he said, ‘and then immediately say,’ But you picked conservative voters! “”

New liberal-minded Texans also felt welcomed by their new neighbors. It was the people they left behind who made them jokes.

“I chose the worst possible time to move here,” says Kyle Miller. As a result of the abortion law, her friends posted anti-Texas memes.

“My friend already took it off, it seems, but there was one (meme) that looked like a glimpse of Texas, and it was just labeled ‘Dumba ** istan,’ says Kyle Miller. , tweeted by @ sundae_gurl2 and several others: “The only star on the Texas flag is actually a review.”

However, not all culture shocks have been political. Miller, who delivers food for DoorDash, has had to adjust to city traffic and the abundance of scooter riders, who can be reckless with cars. Lexx Miller was baffled the first time she saw employees in stores wearing buttons labeled “no mask.” Ross was impressed with the quality of the roads compared to California. And Longley was pleasantly surprised that people in Texas were talking about things other than politics.

“When you’re in that DC bubble, it seems like everything is on high alert in terms of political news all the time,” he says. “It weighs down my psyche.” But maybe not talking about politics enough is part of what got the state to where it is now.

Voters on the left see a silver lining in the latest political turmoil: Now that they live here, they can work to correct its course.

“I can really see myself going out and voting and trying to overturn a lot of these laws that have just been passed,” said Kyle Miller. “I don’t know how long this fight will last or how successful it will be.”

In Maryland, “Your vote is like a drop in the bucket,” says Longley. “Here you know that your vote really matters.

Still, while they may complain about their timing, most new Texans are happy they made their choice. Lexx Miller doesn’t consider herself a resident of Texas forever, but she has no regrets: “As a minority, there are few places I can feel completely safe in America anyway,” she says. “My quality of life here is better.”

Not for everybody. Abbott’s handling of the covid gave Seattle gun owner Harden a break. But he ultimately gave up on his plan to move to Texas after the abortion law was lifted, and his wife vetoed the decision: “It was the nail in the coffin.”

Now, he said, “We’re playing with maybe Tennessee.”

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