Newsom hires new media chief, shuffles Ragone 

Mayor Gavin Newsom announced yet another change in his inner circle of advisers Monday, bringing a new communications director on board and moving his previous media chief to his November re-election campaign.

Nathan Ballard, who has labor and Democratic Party ties, will replace Peter Ragone, who has been with Newsom since he was elected mayor in 2003. Ragone was recently in the media spotlight after admitting to posting messages that promoted Newsom on political Web sites — under fake names. Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin — who proposed a code of conduct for The City’s communications officers in the wake of Ragone’s admission — said Monday of Ballard’s appointment that "hopefully [he will] tell the truth."

The move comes on the heels of the largest public relations crisis the 39-year-old mayor has faced since election — admitting last month to an alcohol problem after publicly acknowledging a long-rumored affair with the wife of his close adviser and campaign manager, Alex Tourk. Ruby Rippey-Tourk had served as Newsom’s appointments secretary, and there is a City Attorney’s Office investigation into severance and compensation pay she received after leaving the position.

Ballard is scheduled to start on Monday. Ragone wouldn’t discuss his plans after his work on November’s election campaign, saying, "My focus is to get Gavin Newsom re-elected, that’s it."

Ballard has previously served as a spokesman for Sen. John Kerry during his presidential run in 2004, and has been a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee in 2004, the California Democratic Party in 2002 and the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO in 2003-04. He previously served in San Francisco’s City Hall as a deputy city attorney from 1999-2001.

"I’m pleased that Nathan Ballard is joining our administration," Newsom said in a statement released to the media. "He is a seasoned communications director who also has valuable experience in San Francisco city government."

Ballard’s salary will be the same as Ragone’s, approximately $120,000 a year, according to Phil Ginsburg, Newsom’s chief of staff.

Ginsburg himself is newly appointed, having been promoted to Newsom’s office in December from a previous position as The City’s human resources director. Ginsberg replaced Steve Kawa, who resigned, according to reports, to spend more time with his family.

Each day until voters go to the polls Nov. 6, The Examiner lays odds on local figures beating Mayor Gavin Newsom. Check out our exclusive blog: San Francisco's Next Mayor?

beslinger@examiner.com

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