May 27, 2022 - Politics

Sen. Stargel's daughter tells people not to vote for "worst mom ever"

Sen. Stargel and her daughter Hannah
Sen. Kelli Stargel (left) and Hannah Stargel, her daughter. Photos: Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via Imagn Content Services (left) and courtesy of Hannah Stargel.

After spending her childhood bending to her family's politics, Hannah Stargel has had enough.

Driving the news: Stargel, 28, posted a series of TikToks in recent days speaking out against her mother, state Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland). The first one, captioned "Do not vote for the worst Mom ever," has garnered more than 70,000 views since Monday.

Why it matters: Her mother announced her bid last week for Florida's newly drawn 15th Congressional District, a race already crowded with Republicans, including former U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, state Rep. Jackie Toledo, Army veteran and Green Beret Jay Collins and Navy veterans Mac McGovern and Demetries Grimes.

What they're saying: "Anybody can speak out against somebody," Stargel tells Axios. "But I feel like I have more firsthand experience with my mom and that could make a difference."

The big picture: Stargel, who is openly bisexual, is the latest in a string of young LGBTQ Floridians fighting back against the state's politics.

  • To cap off a school year marked by protests against the law called "Parental Rights in Education" by proponents and known by critics as "Don't Say Gay," a Sarasota student made news over the weekend with a graduation speech about choosing not to hide his sexuality in spite of Florida's political climate.
  • Stargel also follows in the footsteps of children of conservative powerhouses β€” like Claudia Conway, daughter to former President Trump's senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, and Caroline Cruz, daughter of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz β€” who have rebelled against their parents online.

Flashback: Stargel says her childhood in Lakeland β€” marked by appearances in campaign pamphlets and canvassing for her mother β€” didn't accord with her family's motto of "faith and family first."

  • Her father, former Rep. John Stargel, is now an appellate judge. She recalls spending birthdays away from her parents, who were at legislative sessions in Tallahassee.
  • At 15, her parents sent her to a Christian boarding school in Texas for "struggling teens."
  • "I felt silenced by it," she tells Axios. "That's why I was sent away. I did not fit the picture-perfect mold."

The other side: Stargel's mother, who is also known as an advocate for the victims of the Dozier School for Boys, released a statement saying, "I love my daughter with all of my heart," Florida Politics reports.

  • She did not respond to Axios' request for comment.
  • Her campaign website touts her fight "to prioritize Florida's families" and defend "conservative Florida values."

Stargel, who says she hasn't spoken to her mother in almost a year, kept quiet after the senator voted for the 15-week abortion ban earlier this year, and when she supported the trans student sports ban.

  • Stargel says the ban creates a hostile school environment for her boyfriend's transgender daughter.
  • After seeing that her mother would be seeking more political power when her state Senate term is up, Stargel says she felt she had to say something.

The bottom line: Stargel wants kids who don't feel safe being themselves in Florida's political climate to still be true to themselves.

  • "Put on your imaginary battle helmet. Find your friends, your crew and try to make it through. When you're an adult, it does get better."
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