In the race for Florida Senate in the newly drawn District 22, incumbent Kelli Stargel hopes to fend off a challenge from Democrat Debra Wright.

  • Stargel has been a public servant for the past eight years
  • Wright is a former principal who worked in public education for 40 years
  • Both place a high priority on education in the district

Both candidates are Florida natives, grandmothers, and they’re both pro-life. Besides that, they don’t have much in common.

Stargel made national news earlier in her career as a state representative when she pushed for parents to be graded based on their parental involvement. She's served Florida's residents for the past eight years, first as a representative, then in her current role.

"I want to make sure this state is a place where people can come and raise their family and get a good education, affordable health, start a business and have low taxes," said Stargel. "We've had that for a quite a few years in Florida. I want to maintain that."

In terms of national politics, Stargel has publicly voiced support for her party's presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

"As a Christian, I support Donald Trump," Stargel said while on stage during a Donald Trump rally in Lakeland earlier this year.

Wright, in contrast, is a retired principal who worked for 40 years in public education. She said she brought diversity to Polk County schools while serving on the board from 2010 to 2014.

"I'm most proud of the recruitment of Puerto Rican teachers who we were able to help get in our district to help teachers who weren't speaking Spanish and we had a large influx of students who weren't speaking English, and those teachers were able to help those students and teachers,” said Wright.

Education is, in fact, an area both women said they’re passionate about.

"We will continue to work on parental involvement in education, because I believe that is the key if we really want to have a really strong work force,” Stargel said. Stargel hopes to reform the education system at all levels; one of her priorities is making sure fourth graders read at grade level.

Wright, on the other hand, has made restoring the Special Education diploma a priority in her platform. She also wants to extend early childhood education to all four-year-olds, and make college affordable for all.

“My heart is when it comes to teachers. I think we are over testing in our classrooms," said Wright. "I don’t like the fact that we’re tying the outcomes of one day testing or a few days testing to evaluate whether a teacher is effective or not."