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Politics / Issues
00000174-121d-d47e-a1f7-523d2c950000 WUSF News regularly collaborates with University of South Florida journalism classes in Tampa and St. Petersburg, providing students an opportunity to share their work with the greater Tampa Bay area.Some of the projects have included:“Past Plates” - a podcast and written stories produced in Spring 2017 that look into people’s memories and traditions related to food, food culture and food business in south St. Petersburg. In fall 2016, students profiled candidates running for Tampa Bay area elected offices. They were produced as part of the USF Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications' Advanced Reporting or Public Affairs classes; and as part of the Media and Elections class at USF St. Petersburg’s Journalism and Mass Communications Department.In 2015, WUSF journalists joined the USFSP Neighborhood News Bureau in creating oral histories of residents of St. Petersburg's historic Midtown neighborhood. That work was featured on WUSF's Florida Matters public affairs show.

Elections 2016: Florida Senate District 22 Candidate Kelli Stargel

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Kelli Stargel

Sen. Kelli Stargel has politics running through her veins. Stargel’s great-great-great grandfather Aaron Jernigan served on the Florida House of Representatives back in 1848.

Stargel followed in his footsteps, serving for four years in the Florida House from 2008. Another ancestor, James Lane, was Sumter County Sheriff from 1897 to 1905.

Age: 50 Education: Tallahassee Community College Occupation: Investment property manager Political experience: Florida state Senator 2012-2016; Florida House of Representatives 2008-2012

Stargel now serves as a commissioner on the Education Commission of the States and as a member of the Judiciary Committee, as well as having served on the Commission on Marriage and Family Support Initiatives.

After being elected to the Florida Senate in 2012, she is running for a second term in District 22 of Polk County. Stargel did not respond to requests for an interview for this story.

Stargel faces Democrat Debra Wright in the Nov. 8 election in Senate District 22 in parts of Polk County and Lake County.

Stargel, 50, was born in Tampa. She works as an investment property manager at her family-owned business in Lakeland. She and her husband, Circuit Judge John Stargel, have five children and two grandchildren.

Stargel’s campaign website outlines her goals for the economy, children and security.

“Continue a business friendly environment by keeping our taxes low and controlling the budget,” the site says. “Work on diversifying the economy so our best and brightest can develop careers here in Florida.”

Stargel’s commitment to the local economy is coupled with her socially conservative views on abortion. She has found controversy over the years as her Baptist pro-life beliefs that became part of her legislative agenda.

Recently, she sponsored House Bill 1411, a bill regarding the termination of pregnancies. Some argue that the bill mirrored a Texas law, later found unconstitutional by the U.S Supreme Court. The Texas bill aimed to increase regulation of abortion clinics, and decreasing funding.

Stargel has defended her Florida bill, which passed in the 2016 Legislative session and was signed by Gov. Rick Scott. However, this summer, a federal judge ruled parts of the Florida law unconstitutional and blocked it from being enacted.

Stargel has said in previous interviews that it is less restrictive than the Texas case. And she boasts support from voters for other vetoed bills she has tried to push. Those fans populate her Facebook page.

“I'm an independent Florida voter in support of your efforts, especially on SB668,” said Jimmy Zaleski, a Facebook supporter. “I supported your efforts in many unknown ways and was very disappointed in the outcome.”

Stargel also has the support of the NRA for her protection of Second Amendment rights.

Stargel has raised nearly $300,000 in contributions.

Huw Morgan-Baveystock is a student journalist attending the University of South Florida Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications. This story was produced as part of the school’s Advanced Reporting or Public Affairs class this semester, under the leadership of instructors Wayne Garcia and Wendy Whitt.