The daughter of a Florida Republican seeking a seat in Congress this year is imploring voters not to elect her mother due to her support of policies that harm the LGBTQ community.
Hannah Stargel, the daughter of State Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), posted a video to TikTok asking viewers not to vote for her mother, who is running to represents Florida’s 15th Congressional District, in central Florida. The primary for the heavily-Republican district will be held on August 23.
In the video, Stargel primarily cites her mother’s support of anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ legislation as the chief reason to vote against her. Stargel also claimed that she felt “neglected” by her parents when they prioritized their political careers. Hannah Stargel’s father, John, is a former state representative and currently serves as a Florida appellate judge.
“After numerous years of telling me I was hard to love, putting me through tons of years of neglect, putting politics before everything else, and honestly, just being a horrible, horrible person to look up to — is this really somebody you want up in D.C. passing laws for you and your children, telling you what to do with your body?” Hannah Stargel said.
She claimed that if she didn’t go to church on Sunday, her parents wouldn’t make an effort to feed her. She explained how she didn’t feel comfortable going to the church her family attended — in part due to its stance on homosexuality — and would be left at home — sometimes without food. She said this was exacerbated when her parents began to live their lives more in Tallahassee to be closer to their jobs, rather than at the family’s Lakeland home.
“I remember growing up my dad’s campaigns were like ‘faith and family first,’ but then they would leave us for Tallahassee for a month,” Stargel said in the TikTok video. “I would stay at friends’ houses all the time. It was very common for us to just stay at a friend’s house for like almost a month, and it was just like a part of that childhood that was not fair to us, in my opinion.”
She also claimed that at age 15, her parents sent her to a Christian boarding house in Texas for “struggling teens.”
“Considering the fact that Kelli Stargel is my mother, and sent me to a troubled teen facility when I was only 15, I don’t think that she really has a right to tell you or anybody else who can and can’t be a mother, because she wasn’t even a mother to her own children,” Hannah Stargel said.
She told the website Florida Politics that she had been sent there due to emotional challenges stemming from a car accident that left her wheelchair-bound for a year. Because she was not religious, she compared it to a form of “conversion therapy.” She later spoke with the news website Axios, saying she felt “silenced” by the experience.
“That’s why I was sent away,” she said. “I did not fit the picture-perfect mold.”
While Hannah Stargel told Florida Politics that she and her mother never agreed on policy matters, she stopped speaking with her mother after she sponsored a controversial transgender sports ban that was ultimately signed into law. She noted that she had come out as a member of the LGBTQ community just three months earlier.
“I had actually just come out to my mom a few months earlier,” she said. “She was really shocked by it, she brought me home like some rainbow chocolates, like just as a peace offering. Then fast forward three months.”
Stargel also said she decided to speak out after her mother announced her intention to run for Congress, which she says came after years of promising to step away from politics for her family’s sake.
“She’s been saying for years and years and years that she was going to stop running, stop putting this on the family,” Hannah Stargel said. “So for her to take that and go federal … I don’t speak to her anymore. But for her to do that, I was really upset honestly.”
Kelli Stargel told Florida Politics in a statement that “I love my daughter with all of my heart.”
In the TikTok video, Hannah Stargel said she believes her parents care about her — but there is a strain on their relationship.
“I think my mom still loves me,” she said, “but the way that [my parents] show love is very much through their filter.”
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