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Who really owns Debbie Mayfield? Follow the money

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of April 17, 2014)
Photo of Debbie Mayfield

Rep. Debbie Mayfield, who is running for re-election this fall to represent Vero Beach in the Florida House, has come under scrutiny in recent months, with various constituencies questioning who she actually represents in Tallahassee and exactly what has she accomplished in nearly six years for her district.

Campaign donor lists often provide some insights into who benefits from a lawmaker’s work and who really wants that person to stay in office.

In reviewing Mayfield’s donor lists, Vero Beach 32963 found that more than two thirds of the $136,110 campaign war chest she has raised for the coming election comes from donors outside Indian River County who would appear to have little interest or stake in the local concerns of the constituents who elected her.

Mayfield’s campaign contributor report reads like a list of Fortune 500 companies, with lots of political action committees, lobbyists and special-interest groups mixed in, all of them presumably hoping to get her to support bills that would apply a light touch when it comes to business regulation.

Of Mayfield’s 315 donors on the most recent campaign finance documents, only 118 of them listed addresses in Vero Beach, Sebastian, Indian River Shores or Orchid, the areas she supposedly represents.

And if you don’t count one especially supportive local donor, Vero Beach businessman Robert Stork, a major backer of Gov. Rick Scott who funneled $7,000 to Mayfield this election cycle through his various companies and family members, only $35,980 or roughly a quarter of the $136,110 she’s raised came from local residents.

Even with Stork’s money, only 31 percent or not even one third of the cash comes from Indian River County.

Who makes up the rest of the donor list? Companies like Disney, AT&T, Bright House Networks, Waste Management, U.S. Sugar, Walgreens, Sprint, Humana, General Electric, Genworth Financial, ADT (security systems), Florida Blue, Comcast, Cash America, Advance America, Aflac, Chico’s and Abbott Laboratories.

Mayfield chairs the Business and Professional Regulation Subcommittee, which is the first place many proposed bills regulating or de-regulating Florida’s various industries go. She also serves on the Regulatory Affairs Committee, where those bills end up should they make it out of her subcommittee.

These committee assignments draw lots of donors from the brewing and alcohol distribution industry, which gave Mayfield $12,500 so far this election cycle, including $1,000 from the Beer Distributors Committee for Good Government and $500 from the Wine and Spirits Distributors of Florida PAC.

The casino gambling industry chipped in another $3,500 from donors like Calder Race Track, Isle of Capri Casino, Resorts World of Miami casino, West Flagler (dog track) Associates Ltd. and the Seminole Indian Tribe.

Mayfield also serves on the Energy and Utilities Subcommittee, so she also has major donors with names like TECO Energy, the Duke Energy PAC and Florida Power and Light’s parent company, Nexterra Energy.

Engineering, consulting and law firms that work in or lobby for various regulated industries also dump  cash into Mayfield’s coffers.

Scattered about in the donation list were four checks from people and entities with a stake in the controversial All-Aboard Florida high-speed passenger rail project for a total of $1,750.

All told in this election cycle, a total of nearly 50 political committees (PACs), committees of continuing existence (CCEs), lobbyists and lobbyist law firms gave Mayfield $30,000.

Various healthcare, health insurance and pharmaceutical companies and distributors also thought it was a good idea to invest in Mayfield’s continued service in Tallahassee, as did quite a few doctors, pharmacists and optometrists.

Agriculture is something that’s dear to Indian River County, and to the rest of Florida, so Mayfield’s seat on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Committee seems appropriate. It also brings her campaign cash from agricultural interests across the state.

Mayfield, asked for comment, said: “I am thankful to all of those who have shown their confidence in my conservative leadership in the Florida House by contributing to our campaign.  So far I have received 116 contributions from individuals and businesses in Indian River alone, and dozens more from communities all over Florida.

“With the help of these supporters, I will continue to fight for lower taxes, cutting government waste, eliminating unneeded regulations and opposing the implementation of Common Core in our schools.”

In campaign materials, Mayfield touts herself as a conservative Republican and, in addition to being staunchly pro-gun, anti-abortion and vowing to “fight to promote morality and conservative family values” (constituents might wonder if that encompasses alcohol distribution and casino gambling), she expresses that brand of Tea Party conservatism that preaches keeping big-government off the backs of private industry.

“Getting Florida’s economy back on track should be the priority of the Florida Legislature. With millions of Floridians looking for work, it’s more important than ever that we create an environment that will help create new jobs and attract new businesses to our state,” her campaign website states.

Meanwhile, the bills that Mayfield has championed seem to have little to do with jobs or the economy. She spent months traveling around the state promoting a bill that would halt the implementation of the Common Core public school standards and that bill has failed to even get consideration in any House committee.

Rather late in the game, she filed a dizzying array of bills intended to regulate water, wastewater and electric utilities, but those have gone nowhere to date and only served to provoke a harsh reaction from the Vero Beach City Council.

The one piece of legislation Mayfield introduced this session that emanated from the local community which seems to have a shot at becoming law is House Bill 1055, which would allow residents now on septic tank systems to install equipment to siphon off the excess waste that could flow into the Indian River Lagoon and pump that into the public sewer system instead.

That bill passed through three committees with favorable votes and has been read twice by the House. A related bill in the Senate has made it through two of the four committees it was assigned to, but will have to move along quickly if it’s to stay on track for passage this session.

Mayfield took over the seat held by her late husband, Stan Mayfield, in 2010 when he ran for Indian River County Tax Collector but died prior to taking office, the job reverting to Carole Jean Jordan.

A beachside resident and mother of three sons, Mayfield is running for her fourth and final term representing Florida House District 54, as she’ll be term-limited in 2016. So far, Mayfield has attracted one Republican challenger in the Aug. 26 primary, western Indian River County resident, pharmacist and political newcomer Joshua Fields, and a Democratic challenger in the general election, Sebastian River High School history and government teacher Jorge Lugo.