The red state where residents rush from Democratic cities in California

  • This state has become one of the fastest growing states in the country since 2018
  • Residents from California, Oregon and Washington are among those fleeing
  • A combination of factors is causing the mass exodus from the West Coast states

Americans from liberal states on the West Coast are fleeing in increasing numbers to a neighboring red state to escape political riots, homelessness and crime.

Idaho seems to be the place where disgruntled residents of California, Oregon and Washington are flocking.

Husband and wife Nick Kostenborder and Ashley Manning are among those who brought their then 9-month-old son to Sandpoint to escape Portland.

The couple’s baby, who they named Taylor, was on the way in the summer of 2020, right as the riots in Portland following the death of George Floyd were in full swing.

A view of downtown Boise, Idaho’s largest city with more than 236,000 residents in 2022
The Boise Capitol can be seen near sunset

Kostenborder pointed to the homeless problem in his old city as something that influenced his decision to up and leave.

‘You’re worried about someone other than yourself. So you start to notice threats more. For example, it is no longer charming to let the homeless person sleep in front of the supermarket. Now it’s like, okay, this could be dangerous,” Kostenborder said.

In fact, in Portland, the homeless problem has gotten so out of hand that its own city government has a tracking portal detailing the number of encampments in the city.

“Currently, there are hundreds of unsanctioned encampments spread throughout virtually every neighborhood of our city, spanning a vast area of ​​140 square miles,” the Portland City Council said.

Problems on the West Coast may be one reason Idaho’s population grew by more than 12 percent from 2018 to 2023.

Tents providing shelter for the homeless line the sidewalk along Fifth Street in downtown Los Angeles
A homeless encampment is seen in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, California on August 28, 2023
An image from a night of protests and riots in Portland on October 31, 2020. Armed counter-protesters stand outside a bail bond agency as a protester holds a shirt with a photo of black man Kevin E. Peterson Jr. who was shot dead by police in Vancouver
A protester raises her hands as police arrest other demonstrators and clear a park after a vigil and march marking the police shooting of Black man Kevin E. Peterson Jr.
The City of Portland’s homeless encampment tracker pinpoints the exact location of sites littering the city ‘in virtually every neighborhood’

Manning, the mother of Taylor, now 3, said their small cul-de-sac is much safer than their old neighborhood in Portland, adding that she couldn’t imagine her son playing out there like he does in Idaho.

“He can just get on his bike and it’s so safe,” she said. “Everyone’s just looking out for him.”

Kostenborder said the same year his family moved to Sandpoint, families from Seattle and San Diego moved next door.

“It’s kind of a weird little expat group that we all encountered here,” Kostenborder said.

For Bryan Zielinski and his wife, who moved to Idaho from the Seattle area, it was a combination of things that led them to flee.

Zielinski was a general manager at one of the largest gun stores in Washington, and as a conservative with an affinity for firearms, the state’s growing hostility to his values ​​deeply concerned him.

“Everything is political,” Zielinski said. ‘Whether it concerns the car you drive, where you work. You wear a mask, you don’t wear a mask.’

Tents line the sidewalk of Clay Street on December 9, 2020 in Portland, Oregon
People camp in tents near the former site of a restaurant in Portland on January 24, 2024. The establishment has now been boarded up and covered with graffiti

Lawmakers also targeted his livelihood by banning the sale of magazines with ten or more rounds in 2022 and then banning the sale or import of “assault weapons” in 2023.

A combination of strict COVID-19 policies and the new gun laws led Zielinski to move to Idaho and open his own gun shop, which has been in business for four months.

Thanks to these West Coast transplants, Idaho’s small towns are becoming less small every day.

Sandpoint, in Idaho’s Bonner County, grew 13 percent from 2020 to 2022. And while adding cities to their populations sounds inherently good, there are some downsides.

Idaho residents are dealing with rising home prices, new development in what used to be open fields and wooded areas, and more traffic clogging their previously sleepy roads.

“When people grow up in a wide open space like this, they get used to having room to move around,” said Bonner County Commissioner Luke Omodt. “And we struggle with the fact that there are other people who want to share the same beauty as us.”