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Bill Gallaher funnels more money into Ravitch recall effort

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch and her supporters on Wednesday criticized what they said was a “grotesque” and “immoral” ad that targets her family in the recall campaign against her.

Her comments came as developer Bill Gallaher, the sole donor in the effort to unseat her, donated another $536,000 to the recall campaign over five days, bringing his total to more than $1.6 million.

Gallaher launched the campaign after Ravitch’s office sued one of his companies, Oakmont Senior Living, for abandoning elderly residents at two Santa Rosa senior homes during the 2017 Tubbs fire.

The recall campaign’s finances dwarf the Ravitch campaign, which reported $108,702.75 total donations year to date.

As of Monday, the pro-Ravitch effort has received 539 individual donations with an average contribution of $201.67, the campaign said.

Election Day is Sept. 14, less than a month away.

In-person voting kicked off Monday at the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters office at 435 Fiscal Drive in Santa Rosa. The registrar’s office has also begun sending out mail-in ballots which should be arriving in registered voters’ mailboxes in the next three to 10 days.

Ravitch, who plans to retire when her term ends next year, is unopposed on the ballot. If voters do recall her, the Board of Supervisors will have to appoint her replacement.

In a new Press Democrat poll of 500 registered voters, 26% of respondents said they would vote to recall her and 47% said they would vote against her recall.

The recall effort has accused Ravitch of misdeeds including corrupt hiring practices and a failure to disclose conviction rates ― all of which Ravitch has denied.

Instead, Ravitch and her supporters say the recall is really about Gallaher’s anger over the Oakmont Senior Living lawsuit.

In 2020, a company affiliate paid $500,000 to settle the lawsuit.

The recall effort launched not long after the settlement.

So far, finance reports show the recall has funneled money into glossy mailings, targeted Facebook ads, radio ads, political consultants and polling.

Radio and Facebook ads released in recent days have focused on a fatal 2015 car crash in Napa County involving Ravitch’s brother, John Ravitch.

John Ravitch and his friend, Jordan Hilsenbeck, were participating in a two-day Northern California rally for vintage cars, when they collided as Ravitch attempted to pass Hilsenbeck, according to previous reporting. The crash killed Hilsenbeck.

Though the crash occurred in Napa County, the ads from the recall campaign insinuate Jill Ravitch handled her brother’s prosecution.

According to court records, the Napa County District Attorney’s office prosecuted John Ravitch for vehicular manslaughter. He was sentenced to two years of summary probation between 2016 and 2018, 15 days in jail and 120 hours in a work program.

A spokesperson for Napa County District Attorney’s Office said the case had nothing to do with Ravitch.

Ravitch said she has not seen the ads, but reiterated that she had nothing to do with her brother’s prosecution or his sentence, and did not attend his court appearances.

“It’s one thing for William Gallaher to come after me as revenge for prosecuting his companies,” she said.

“But to take the tragedy that my brother was involved in and to infer that I prosecuted the case is another thing all together,” she continued.

“The event and the legal proceeding took place in another county, and I had absolutely nothing to do with it … What he is doing to mislead voters and harm my family is immoral and it breaks my heart,” Ravitch said.

Brandon Cho, treasurer for the recall campaign, did not respond to the Press Democrat’s request for comment when contacted via phone and email.

When reached last week for a previous story, Cho said the campaign has “some things in the works” but declined to specify or comment further.

Terry Price, chair of Voters Opposed to Recalling Jill Ravitch, also condemned the ads.

“Today our District Attorney was attacked by another venomous advertisement paid for by Bill Gallaher. These ads are built on lies and insinuations about a family tragedy that took place in Napa County in which Jill’s brother lost his best friend,” Price said.

“These grotesque attacks directed toward her family members represented a new low for the revenge recall. Even so, they don’t compare to the shameful event that started this recall: Gallaher’s company abandonment of dozens of fragile seniors as the deadly Tubbs fire roared toward Villa Capri Assisted Living Facility.”

Staff Writer Emma Murphy at 707-521-5228 or emma.murphy@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MurphReports.

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