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Drive to recall Ravitch holds big fundraising edge, latest filings show

Less than a week before mail-in ballots are sent out in the recall election of Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch, campaign finance filings show a wide gap between her supporters and the drive to unseat her.

The Recall Ravitch campaign reported receiving $865,243.62 in contributions from local developer Bill Gallaher between Jan. 1 and July 31, according to the most recent finance report filed with the county. Gallaher is the organization’s only contributor.

The funds far surpass the money behind the pro-Ravitch campaign which reported receiving $104,551.75 during the same time period.

While its fundraising totals are smaller, the pro-Ravitch campaign’s list of donors is far longer. It includes residents, the Sonoma County Prosecutors Association and elected officials including Supervisor Chris Coursey and Rohnert Park Mayor Gerard Guidice.

State and local elected officials, as well as the county’s Democratic Party leaders have also endorsed the “No Recall” movement.

Gallaher, founder of Poppy Bank and chief executive officer of Windsor-based Gallaher homes, launched the recall last year after his Oakmont Senior Living company settled a lawsuit with Ravitch’s office and state prosecutors last year over the abandonment of elderly residents at two of his Santa Rosa facilities during the 2017 Tubbs fire.

While the Recall Ravitch campaign does not have to look far for deep pockets, Ravitch’s supporters have taken a more grassroots approach.

“We are up against some very big money,” Maddy Hirshfield, a pro-Ravitch campaign leader, told a crowd at a fundraiser in July. “We are never going to be able to match him dollar for dollar but we’re going to get him.”

The event at Sally Tomatoes in Rohnert Park on July 25 brought in between $40,000 and $45,000, volunteer campaign co-leader Terry Price said.

State Sen. Mike McGuire, who moonlights as an auctioneer, energized the crowd of local and state elected officials, prosecutors and friends in attendance. Running through the crowd of around 100 attendees, McGuire called for donations and applause as donors raised their hands to pledge anywhere from $100 to $1,000.

Mail-in ballots will be sent out on Aug. 16 and are expected to start landing in voters’ mailboxes by the end of next week, according to Deva Proto, the county’s registrar of voters.

Election Day is Sept. 14.

Ravitch, who plans to retire when her term ends next year, is unopposed on the ballot.

If the recall succeeds, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will have to appoint a replacement.

The pro-recall effort has an uphill climb, according to a new Press Democrat poll. Of the 500 registered voters surveyed, 26% said they would vote to recall her and 47% said they would vote against her recall.

Internal polling from the Pro-Ravitch campaign shows slightly better numbers, according to Price.

Because the election is taking place during an off-year, the pro-Ravitch team expects voter turnout to be lower than a typical election year in Sonoma County, which means complacency among voters is a big concern.

“The major unknown is to what extent Gallaher is going to fund the campaign in the final 30 days,” Price said. “He’s highly unpredictable so we can’t rest on our laurels here.”

The pro-Ravitch campaign plans to continue raising money through direct mail and email. When Election Day arrives, the campaign will spend it following up with voters to make sure they have voted.

The recall campaign does not appear to have hosted any events or had any representative speaking publicly in support of the recall. Instead, the campaign has funneled its funds into glossy mailings, targeted Facebook ads, radio ads, political consultants and polling, according to campaign filings.

Brandon Cho, the Recall Ravitch’s campaign treasurer and an Oakmont Senior Living employee, said the recall campaign has “some things in the works” but declined to specify or comment further.

Cho added that the campaign does not have any comment beyond its initial press release.

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

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