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A politician to the very end, state Sen. Dave Cox transferred $7,800 in campaign funds to a potential GOP successor shortly before he died, state records show.

Assemblyman Roger Niello's campaign coffers for a Senate run received two donations Tuesday from Taxpayers for Dave Cox. Each was for $3,900, the maximum allowable per primary and general election.

Niello, R-Fair Oaks, and GOP Assemblyman Ted Gaines of Roseville are expected to contend for Cox's seat representing the 1st Senate District, which stretches from Sacramento suburbs to the Oregon border.

Niello will be termed out of the Assembly this year, and Gaines in 2012. Both had opened campaign committees in anticipation of vying for Cox's seat when the veteran lawmaker was scheduled to be termed out in 2012.

Cox also contributed Tuesday to one of this year's hottest Senate races, donating $3,900 to Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, in his fight with former Democratic Assemblyman John Laird of Santa Cruz for the 15th District seat left vacant by Abel Maldonado's appointment as lieutenant governor.

Cox, R-Fair Oaks, lost a 13-year battle with prostate cancer Tuesday. His death will require Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to call a special election to fill the final two years of his term.

By law, Schwarzenegger has 14 days from the date of the vacancy to call a special election, which must be held on a Tuesday within 112 to 126 days of his proclamation - or up to 180 days if he opts to consolidate it with a statewide or district election.

Click here for an obituary in today's Bee.


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