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Californians On the Move Are Turning Nevada Blue

"Welcome to Nevada" sign from the side of I-80 east
Famartin via Wikimedia Commons
"Welcome to Nevada" sign along eastbound Interstate 80 entering Washoe County, Nevada from Sierra County, California

Census data shows Nevada is the fastest growing state in the nation. Historically, most of that growth has come from Californians moving East. But in recent years, that growth has led to some backlash among conservative Nevadans who see the influx of Californians as the number one reason the state has begun to shift from solid red to purple and, now, blue. KUNR's Paul Boger has the story.

Fresno realtor Harvey Boganwright says when his clients decide to leave California, it’s for a simple reason: it’s cheaper.

“They can sell in California, spend less money and buy the same type of house or larger and pay less taxes in those areas,” says Boganwright.”

A map of Nevada counties showing Washoe and Clark Counties as blue (Democratic) while all of Nevada's rural counties are red (Republican).
Credit Nevada Secretary of State
As more Californians move to Nevada, the politics of the Silver State have changed. In previous elections, Washoe County was considered safe territory for the GOP. Now, that's not necessarily the case, like in the 2018 midterm election when Dems carried the state's two most populous counties.

That influx of Californians has shifted the realpolitik of Nevada, with Democrats gaining a tenuous hold on the state. It was a sticking point for Republicans along the campaign trail last year, who blamed those same Californians for their troubles.

"It is a huge problem and, dare I say, a scourge,” said NRA Spokeswoman Dana Loesch, speaking to an enthusiastic crowd of Republican voters last year. “You know what I'm talking about. You have all of these progressives not from your state moving into your state, and they're bringing their socialist values with them."

"I love good, conservative California people,” Loesch continued. “I kind of want to stand at the border of Texas and ask the president to build us another wall to keep the progressives out. Maybe you need that here in Nevada, too."

And Loech may have touched a nerve for those voters.

Since that midterm, when Republicans lost nearly every statewide race, Democratic lawmakers have been pushing a progressive agenda. This session, the Nevada legislature is primed to pass a minimum wage increase, a ban on private prisons, and tighter gun control measures. For Republican Assembly Minority Leader Jim Wheeler, the Democratic majority may be going too far.

“We’re seeing a lot of the California-style bills come over here, and go through,” Wheeler said. “So, let’s see what actually happens. Nevada is a fairly conservative blue state.”

Nevada rural counties have passed resolutions naming themselves 2nd Amendment Sanctuaries, a potshot at states like California who have named themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants.

This story was produced in partnership with the California Reportout of KQED.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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