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Annual golfing fundraiser lures Senate Democrats

With a cold Pacific wind blowing up the gut of Sacramento and the entire town taking on the sodden smell of a goldfish bowl that needs cleaning, Senate Democrats are heading for the usually sunnier environs of San Diego golf courses for a major fundraiser. But they may not get to stay long.

That’s because rumors of a budget deal are heating up between the governor and at least some members of the so-called “GOP Five.” With closed-door talks targeting changes in environmental laws, regulatory shifts and a five-year spending cap, Senate Democrats may find themselves hastily boarding planes to get back to Sacramento to put a two-thirds vote into the books.

If a deal does go down, Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, will be in the unusual position of leaving his own event. But there is one consolation: Weather.com predicts that La Jolla will be unpleasant, too, rainy with high temperatures in the upper 50s.

“We’re on notice that as state budget stuff goes on, that’s his priority, obviously,” said Chris Lehman, a Democratic Party spokesman.  

This is the seventh year for the Pro Tem Cup event, held at the Torrey Pines and Madera Golf Courses near San Diego. The annual event is sponsored by the California Cable and Telecommunications Association. The two-day fundraiser includes golfing with legislators and spa treatments for the biggest donors.

And when it comes to money, one thing is clear: Democrats in California are likely to head into 2012 with a significant cash advantage. The state Democratic Party ended the year with $5.8 million in the bank, according to records maintained by the Secretary of State’s office. Since the beginning of the year, they’ve logged $750,000 more.

The California Republican Party? They ended the year with roughly $126,000 and have logged $249,000 since the beginning of the year.

Lehman declined to say which legislators were going to be there or how much the event raised last year.

“We always invite the Senate Democrats, but you never know exactly who’s going to come until they show up, especially this year.”

While the Democrats have been rolling up a big financial advantage, Lehman said that the recent John Laird versus Sam Blakeslee special election for Senate showed that independent expenditures can make up a big part of the difference. IEs kept attacking Laird ahead of the runoff, even though Blakeslee was essentially out of money.

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