The big showdown

The Rico ‘n’ Dan show: At press time, vote tabulators were still figuring out who was going to win that 3rd Congressional District GOP primary—a task made all the more daunting by visions of a defeated Rico Oller wielding one of his many hunting rifles. Meanwhile, pundits were trying to figure out what prompted ex-Attorney General Dan Lungren’s last-minute surge to overtake state Senator Oller by a razor-thin margin of a few hundred votes. Mary Ose, the sister of outgoing Representative Doug Ose, placed third.

Could it have been Lungren’s big endorsement by Newt Gingrich? Well, maybe. But KFBK talk-show host Tom Sullivan’s support probably was more influential. Sullivan made the on-air endorsement a day before the election and taped a pre-recorded phone message on Lungren’s behalf.

“It’s hard to tell,” said Sullivan, who toyed with a run for the seat last year. “I hope I helped. Lungren was way behind in the polls a week out.”

“It helped Dan a lot,” said Oller campaign manager Steve Davey. “It’s the No. 1 talk show in Sacramento.” Bites couldn’t track down Oller, whom Davey suspected was spending time alone on his ranch in the foothills.

Oller had a few of his own radio endorsers, including KTKZ’s Eric Hogue and KFBK’s Mark Williams. “It was odd around here,” said one KFBK newsroom employee. “It’s like we’ve got our own little war going on.”

Political analyst Tony Quinn said the endorsement meant a lot for Lungren. “They had a woman operator who’d say, ‘Hold for Tom Sullivan.’ They’d play it, and people would be quite impressed.”

Quinn, however, said Oller quit polling 10 days out, so he didn’t realize Lungren was gaining on him. “He was spending all his energy defeating Ose, but he was forcing her votes to Lungren,” Quinn said.

If that’s the case, it was a costly mistake for Oller, who bet his political career on the race by giving up his Senate seat in order to run. As for Lungren, winning would be a huge coup for a guy who’s picked up the paper to read his own political obituary a couple of times now.

Sadly, the remaining absentee votes won’t be counted until Wednesday, so Bites won’t know until after press time if Lungren kept his unlikely lead.

Good for the goose: Bites was pleased this week to see the California Supreme Court take a break from contemplating the insidious specter of gay marriage in order to ensure that employers—at least those of the nonreligious variety—cannot sexually discriminate when it comes to prescription benefits. The decision settles Catholic Charities of Sacramento v. Superior Court of Sacramento County, by ruling that any organization that does not qualify as a religious employer must include female birth control in its prescription-benefit program. The discriminatory nature of the previous practice became evident when insurers embraced Viagra immediately after it got Food and Drug Administration approval, while they continued to ignore contraceptives that have been approved for 40 years. With all those commercials in which tiny little pills finally enable silver-haired men to throw that football through that old spare tire once again, it’s nice to know that we might yet get respite from a chemically enabled baby boom.

Taxing: Hummer owners may tell a different story, but that double-digit vehicle-license-fee reduction on the Bitesmobile wasn’t exactly a second American Revolution. Still, if you can’t figure out where to spend your own windfall car-tax refund/bribe, the State Board of Equalization has good news for you. In a cheerful missive titled, “Do You Owe California Use Tax on Out-of-State Purchases?” board officials explain that there’s a place on your state-tax form for all those Internet purchases you’d previously felt so guilty about not paying sales tax on. California and New York are the newest additions to a growing list of 20 states that have included an Internet sales-tax table in this year’s income-tax form. Some Internet operations—including Target, Wal-Mart and Toys “R” Us—have been collecting taxes from both in- and out-of-state customers already, but most Internet operations don’t bother. So, even if the fear of being sued by the Recording Industry Association of America got you to switch from Napster to Amazon, you might not be out of the woods just yet.