Chuck DeVore moved his family from California to Texas a decade ago. The move was prompted by several factors, he says, including “seeing [California] drifting further and further to the left.”
Today, many people are making the same decision that DeVore, vice president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, made: They are leaving California for the Lone Star State. That raises the question: Will Texas be pulled to the left by all those moving there? Initial data suggests that it won’t be.
“People come here for their own, very deeply personal reasons,” DeVore said. “And you can’t assume that because someone came here from a blue state that they’re going to have liberal views.”
Polling reveals that many people who move to Texas from California support conservative candidates in elections. That could change at any time, though, he warns.
DeVore joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss the ways in which his organization is working to keep Texas, Texas. He also explains what might be next for the recent election reform bill that failed in the Texas Legislature when Democrats walked out of the session, preventing a vote.
Also on today’s show, we read your letters to the editor and share a few highlights from The Heritage Foundation’s recent Resource Bank conference in Austin, Texas.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: I am joined by Chuck Devore, the vice president at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Sir, thank you so much for being here.
Chuck DeVore: Great to be here, Virginia.
Allen: So, I want to begin by asking you a little bit about your story.
Allen: You moved to Texas from California not too long ago. Why did you decide to come to Texas?
DeVore: Well, it’s a good story. It was about 10 years ago. There’s a few reasons, and of course, when you move, it’s usually a very deeply personal thing, when someone moves. For me, I had a pretty decent political career in California. I was in the state Assembly there. I represented almost half a million people for six years. I was [term-limited] out in 2010.
Ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010. A woman by the name of Carly Fiorina got in the [Republican] primary, and she had a pretty decent-sized bank account, and so, tough to compete against that.
But prior to my being in the state Assembly, I was in the aerospace industry for 13 years. And all the places that I used to work there, all the major headquarters, in the time that I was in the legislature and was then trying to figure out what am I going to do next, all the major headquarters left the state. And so all the places I used to work were now someplace else.
Allen: And many of them came to Texas.
DeVore: Yes, they did, in fact. And so, if I was going to do the same work that I did prior to my elected career, I would be living out of a suitcase. And so, that was reason No 1. Reason No. 2 was I’m a conservative. I happen to be a conservative Republican. And I was seeing the state drifting further and further to the left. And I thought, this isn’t really looking good for someone with my philosophy.
I’m beginning to be considered by the majority of the state to be somewhat on the extreme, right? So, maybe this isn’t going to work out. So, maybe the political path is also closing down.
And then the last thing was a really unexpected curveball. My two in-laws both began to suffer from dementia at the same time. They were off [in] New York. We had kind of an emergency hospitalization crisis. My wife went back; she’s the oldest of three. She went back and assessed the situation. And I told her when she was back there and we figured out what was going on, I said, “Look, your parents cannot take care of themselves right now. They’re not taking their medicines on time, and if you come back, you’re just going to go back there every couple of weeks. Why don’t you just pack as many suitcases as you can, bring them out to California, and we’ll figure out what’s going on with them medically.”
And so, we did, and one week turned into a month, turned into six months, turned into a year.
And my father-in-law took over my office in my house. My mother-in-law took over my youngest daughter’s room. And so, you have six people in a house not really made for six people.
Plus, you had stairs that these people in their 80s had to navigate. So, you’re just asking for a terrible accident, going up and down the stairs. And the cost of housing is so expensive in Southern California that it just wasn’t an option to find a big enough place to be able to properly take care of my in-laws and still have room for my daughters and my wife.
And so, at that point, my campaign communications manager, a native Texan … Josh Trevino, he went to work for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and he calls me up one day, and he says, “You need to apply for this job that we have.” And I was like, “You know what, Josh, this isn’t really … The job isn’t up my alley.” He says, “Trust me, apply for it.” And so, I did. I didn’t get the job.
However, they hired me as a consultant to work on some research. Happy to do that. And the research really involved me doing a due diligence of Texas. And so, I was looking at all the bad things people said about Texas and whether they were true or not, and they were not true, right?
Looking at U.S. Census Bureau data and all kinds of primary source data from the federal government about well-being and poverty and educational achievement, things like that. And so, eventually, I told my family, “Look, we’re just going to move to Texas. The economy is far better than California’s.”
This was in the middle of the Great Recession, 2011. And I said, “I think that maybe the foundation will hire me, but if they don’t, I’m sure I’ll find another job.” And so, we moved.
And that was 10 years ago, and my father-in-law still lives with us. My mother-in-law passed away about six years ago. He’s 96. And in fact, he landed at Normandy [in France during World War II] about a week after the [D-Day] invasion, and he was a Navy Seabee. And so, we’re happy to take care of him, and we’re able to do so in a far bigger house for far less money because it’s Texas, and that freedom then allows people to really meet demand more readily than they do in California.
So, sorry for the long story, but that’s kind of an origin story, right? That’s why I’m in Texas.
Allen: No, it’s great to hear that background. And I think you’re not alone in that. You’re not alone in the individual … looking at your family circumstances and saying, I’ve got to move somewhere where there are more opportunities, where housing is more affordable. A lot of Californians are doing that right now. We’ve seen Joe Rogan has moved to Texas.
DeVore: Yeah. I’ve written a few stories about that. Yeah. And Elon Musk, right?
Although I don’t think either one of them were concerned about housing affordability, but there are other reasons for the move.
Allen: But are you concerned, as more and more individuals do come from states like California, that we’re going to see Texas shift toward the left?
DeVore: Yeah. So, what’s really interesting about that, and I hear that all the time, the first thing you have to wonder is, OK, so, since, generally speaking, conservatives have more children than do liberals, let’s do the math, right? So, you can’t just do that forever, because then the blue states would become right. It’s not like the left is regenerating itself right.
So, then you look at the U.S. Census Bureau data where every year around in September, they publish their estimate of interstate migration from state to state. And generally speaking, Texas is always the No. 1 destination. Sometimes, Florida is, but as far as net positive. So, you have people leaving the state, people coming into the state. And California is usually the No. 1 loser, often up there with New York. Well, the No. 1 destination for former Californians is Texas, but the No. 1 destination for former Texans is California, right?
It’s just that, on the net, we generally get [30,000] to 40,000 more people coming here from California than we lose. So, is it a problem? Well, polling has suggested that it’s not. So, we have historic polling as well as poling we’ve done ourselves at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. It was a poll done 13 years ago by [the University of Texas at Austin] and the Texas Tribune showing that California [expatriates] are 57% to 27% conservative versus liberal.
There was a very fascinating CNN exit poll that you heard referenced by Josh Trevino … between Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Ted Cruz for the 2018 election. And what that poll found was that native Texans, about 60% of voters preferred O’Rourke by plus three. Now, Cruz won that race by a little more than two points. But the 40% of Texans who moved here, like, by the way did Ted Cruz, because he wasn’t born here, right? They preferred Cruz by plus 15.
So if it wasn’t for the transplants who moved to Texas, that poll suggested that O’Rourke would be a senator. We did our own polling. We did polling for [Donald] Trump versus [Hillary] Clinton, and we found that people who moved to Texas were 5% more likely to have voted for Trump than natives.
So, as I recall, it was a plus-five points for Trump among the natives and plus—I think—12 among the transplants. And then we just did a new poll that I wrote about a couple of days ago in The Federalist, where we actually drill down and look at individual states, right? We polled something close to 3,000 voters so that we could get enough granularity to see some patterns at the state level. And what we found was the most conservative region that was sending people to Texas was the Rocky Mountain West, followed by the four-state region of Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi. No. 3 was California.
Yeah. Exactly. Now, liberals were also coming in on balance, right? This is not individuals, but populations of people. So the south Atlantic region from D.C. down to Florida was sending people that were more liberal than the natives. And of course, foreign arrivals who are naturalized citizens weren’t the same as the people from the East Coast and the Southeast.
So, that was a fascinating exercise, and I’m really glad that we had the chance to do it. It took, as I recall, four months … polling for us to come up with that. And so, it’s not quite what people might think it is, right? People come here for their own very deeply personal reasons. And you can’t assume that because someone came here from a blue state that they’re going to have liberal views.
Allen: Yeah. I think that’s really interesting and good.
DeVore: So far.
Allen: Yeah. So far.
DeVore: Things change, right? Things always change. And in the city of Austin, you do probably have a more left-wing person move here on balance, because again, it’s the tech industry, and it has its own kind of culture. But frankly, Austin’s always been Texas’ most left, left-wing major city, because it’s a government town, right? You have a lot of government workers. You have [the University of Texas at] Austin. So, you have several tens of thousands of professors and other administrative personnel at UT.
Well, that’s not exactly a conservative bunch of people, right? And of course, the tech industry. So, those three things together pretty much ensure that Austin is going to be probably left-leaning for the foreseeable future.
Allen: At the Texas Public Policy Foundation, you all are really on the forefront of making sure that Texas does stay Texas. That American values are promoted. Share with us just a little bit about how you’re doing that and really what your mission is as an organization.
DeVore: Right. So, we’ve been around, I think, since the late [1980s]. We have a little over 100 people at the foundation, mostly in Texas, but we have people who work on issues around the country. And we have an operation in D.C. called States Trust. That’s kind of our embassy of common sense, of Texas common sense, to the swamp in Washington, D.C.
And that’s a fun operation as well. So, most of our work focuses on the Texas Legislature. I testified numerous times this last session, mostly on election integrity matters, but other bills as well, typically connected with research that I’ve done. I did a few research papers on threats to election, free and fair elections.
And so, as part of that then, we’re certainly helping the Legislature better understand the issues and ways that they can kind of adapt Texas’ laws to changing circumstances, to try to optimize freedom and opportunity here in Texas, and as well increasingly on some of the cultural fronts.
So, for example, we were engaging on the issue of critical race theory and promoting a bill that would explicitly prevent the teaching of critical race theory in our government classrooms. The funny thing was … you saw some of the arguments from the left saying, keep the state out of the classroom, and it’s like excuse me, this is government education. It is the state. The classroom is the state.
So, it was kind of funny to see people trying to push back with that as a slogan. So, I would say that we have a pretty integral role in how the Texas Legislature kind of views some of these issues. We testify at hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of bills in a given session. And then starting next week, we go off around the state.
And so, I’ll be traveling to places like Amarillo and Lubbock and Houston and Dallas and San Antonio, and we’ll be speaking to individuals who show up and want to hear our take on the session. What is it that we accomplished? What is it that was left undone? Why we should be concerned about those things that were left undone and how we can try to improve things in Texas.
And so, we’ll be doing that for several weeks with probably 10 cities, I think, on the stop. … I just go over my Outlook calendar. It tells me to go and pack enough underwear to make sure that I can last for however long I’m going to be on the road. So, no time to rest.
Allen: Absolutely not. And one of the issues that everyone right now is talking about across the country, but especially right now in Texas, is election integrity. Just last week, there was a push to pass election integrity legislation in the state of Texas. Democrats got up; they walked out of the session.
DeVore: Yes, they did. Yeah. Constitutionally, Texas requires that two-thirds of the members be present to constitute a quorum. So, with about an hour and a half left before the end of a deadline to get everything out of the House, they walked out, and not only temporarily killed the major election integrity omnibus Senate Bill 7, but also killed a few other things that were going to be considered after that. … First of all, we did see seven individual pieces of legislation pass that are on their way to Gov. [Greg] Abbott’s desk that incrementally improve the ability to have free and fair elections in Texas. And so, those are already done.
What we’re missing with the omnibus, chief among the things were, is a provision for a voter ID for mail-in ballot. So, unlike in other states where mail-in ballots are a more significant portion of the vote, in Texas, they have been gradually growing. They were about 1.8% of all the votes in 2010. In 2020, they were about 9% of the votes. So, it’s gone up about fivefold over the last 20 years.
And the problem with that is that in Texas, for about the last eight years or so, we require voter ID when you go vote in person. Government-issued ID has to be displayed, and if it’s not, you can file a reasonable-impediment declaration and, I think, vote provisionally. But with mail-in ballots, as it is in most states around the country, it’s simply a signature verification, which is a very subjective exercise.
And in Texas, it’s typically done at the local level, where you have a two-to-one board constituted by the majority of whoever controls that county. So, it’ll be two Democrats, one Republican, or two Republicans, one Democrat. And it’s simply partisans deciding whether the signature matches or not.
And so under current law, you could have a whole series of mail-in ballots that look suspicious and maybe it’s signed by the same person with the same ink. And the partisans might say, “No. This is fine. There’s nothing wrong with these signatures.”
Well, with a mail-in ballot ID, what we’re asking for is inside of a privacy flap. When you request the ballot you have to put in your driver’s license number or your state ID number or the last four [digits] of your Social Security [number]. And you also have to do that when you turn in the ballot, again, inside of a privacy flap.
And what we’re also doing is suggesting that that information, if it’s correct, really takes precedence over the signature, which is a more subjective issue. So, it should strengthen the likelihood that voters will actually have their votes counted, even if the local political machine that may or may not be corrupt doesn’t want to count that vote, right?
And so, we think it’s a commonsense improvement to our election code. It’s certainly similar to what was passed in Georgia, and as I recall, was also passed in Florida, and frankly ought to be pretty common sense around the country.
Allen: Yeah. Well, and we’ve seen, though, with states like Georgia, with these pieces of election, the far left is just slapping a “racist” label on them. Why is that happening? Why are these bills being pegged as “racist” when election integrity is something we should all want, we should all be for?
DeVore: Well, I think some of it goes, of course, to using incendiary rhetoric that the corporate media will parrot without thinking about it. I was on an MSNBC show talking about this, where they were bringing up the specter of “Jim Crow” and all this. Of course, it never mentioned that it was the Democrats that did that. And they brought up this terrible incident of voter suppression that happened in Texas 61 years ago. So, three years before I was born, and acting as if this was still something that was pervasive and happens all the time.
And I’m thinking, you realize that you just cited as your most pressing example of why these sorts of things can’t be trusted in Texas, something that happened in 1960, right? It’s, like, really! OK. That’s a little stale. I mean, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but something that happened before I was born and was done by the other party, right, by the Democrats in this case. The very people who are complaining about … So, it’s like, OK, whatever. Yeah. That was a little on the crazy side.
So, then the other thing they did in Texas was, there’s language that you find very common in the Anglosphere, in the talking about things, like the equal application of law or of juries that are able to come to a decision independently and objectively, or of the ballot box. And the phrase used the word “purity,” right? Purity of the ballot box. It was actually part of election code in Texas. I think even part of the constitution. And the preamble to the omnibus did have that language.
And the Democrats, during the Florida debate, when it was first considered in the House, claimed that this was a “racist” term that really was referring to wanting racial purity in the ballots. And they were claiming that this was the case, and it was all part of Jim Crow. And I thought about it, it’s like, well, OK, maybe there was a couple instances where that was used during that era. Just like in the antebellum South, the Bible was often used to justify slavery because there are references to slavery in the Bible, right?
Now, I’d argue that the abolitionists’ case for abolishing slavery also using the Bible probably had a strong theological claim. But the interesting thing, though, is that the Democrats’ arguments about this phrase completely missed the fact that this phrase, “purity of the ballot,” occurs frequently in U.S. history going back to the 1830s, and definitely did not refer in any way, shape, or form to anything even remotely having to do with voter suppression, but rather had to do with concerns over vote fraud.
In fact, the phrase was used in connection with constant abuses of free and fair elections by Tammany Hall in New York City. So much so, that they actually invented it at the time. This is something I didn’t know, a glass ballot box, right? And they invented the glass ballot box so you could see ahead of time if it was stuffed, right? You just had to look at it, and it’s like, look, there’s no ballot, it’s pretty stuffed. I guess we’re good to go, right? And so, I even found contemporaneous with that, with the landmark amendments that really launched the equal rights for all in America, the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments after the Civil War.
And so, I found a Harper’s Weekly, a magazine cover from that era, probably around 1867, where you saw a recently—presumably, because it was an illustration, right?—you saw a recently freed slave and then behind him was a black member of the Union Army, right? And they were going to vote with one of these glass ballot boxes that were made specifically to ensure the purity of the ballot.
So, it was the exact opposite, right? Not only was it just not so, it was 180 degrees opposite of what the Democrats were claiming on the floor, right? So, here you have the purity of the ballot thought of as a good thing … and the illustration showing black men voting for the first time, right?
So, anyway, it’s just so amazing. And the problem, of course, is that when this is … when you’re ambushed with this, and this wasn’t on your mind to begin with. Putting myself in the Republican shoes, why would they even think that this would have come up if that wasn’t on their mind to begin with—right?—that they somehow put in the language because they were racist, right? Yes, we’re going to put this in, because really we only want certain people to vote, right? And wink, wink, nod, nod. And they were caught flat-footed, of course, because that wasn’t on their mind.
And by the way, it was just part of Texas code, right? It was part of the constitution. And again, the phrase having predated its use in the Texas Constitution by at least 40 years. So, anyway, it’s just a crazy example of how these things are used and then, of course, are picked up by the press and repeated ad nauseam.
Allen: So, where does this bill stand right now? I know Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he’s going to call a special session. Do you anticipate that that’s going to happen?
DeVore: I do. I think that probably we’ll see it sometime after the 4th of July weekend, by Independence Day. And the interesting thing, politically, speaking as a former lawmaker, I think, the Democrats in Texas are on really thin ice here, and for a couple of reasons.
No. 1, the issue of voter ID with mail-in ballots is approved by 81% of Texas voters. And that’s with the same polling firm that we hired that Gov. Abbott uses, right? I mean, these guys are very well-regarded in the state of Texas … . That’s No. 1. So, you have majorities of even Democrats who support having mail-in ballots, having some of the same safeguards as voting in person does. So, that’s No. 1.
No. 2, when they walked out, they also killed a very crucial bail reform bill. Now, because of court rulings, the existing bail system in the state of Texas has some very significant weaknesses that if you are a, let’s say, a violent felon who gets arrested on a new violent charge, where you are accused of shooting somebody or stabbing somebody, but you have money, you can make bail.
And what happened about a year or two ago is that exact thing happened out in Houston, and then the person who made bail went out and killed a police officer. Well, we haven’t fixed that. And, specifically, it hasn’t been fixed because Democrats walked out on their job.
And so, what I think is very dangerous for them politically is that between now and the special session, until they actually come back and don’t walk out, if there are any incidents that happen where you have a convicted felon or somebody with a known violent record, but has the money to make bail because we didn’t introduce risk assessments into the process, and kill somebody, heaven forbid, that’s on the Democrats.
They had a chance to fix it, and they walked off their jobs. And so, I’m not sure that their leadership is going to want to keep this charade up much longer, because every month that goes by where they don’t fix that is another month where they could see some very powerful … hit pieces. Hit them in the mail come campaign time.
Allen: Yeah. Well, Chuck, we thank you for the work that you’re doing at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
DeVore: Thank you.
Allen: And thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate it.
DeVore: Appreciate it. Thank you, Virginia.