PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — James Diossa and Stefan Pryor are in a dead heat in the Democratic primary for general treasurer, with a large majority of voters still waiting to make up their minds, an exclusive 12 News/Roger Williams University poll released Wednesday shows.
The survey of 405 likely Rhode Island Democratic primary voters finds Diossa at 18% and Pryor at 17%, with a huge 61% still undecided.
“The race is basically a tie,” said 12 News political analyst Joe Fleming, who conducted the poll. “I would say most people don’t know who these two candidates are,” he added.
Part of the reason for that, Fleming said, is because neither candidate has had the resources to start advertising early. “Whatever money they do have, they have been saving the last few weeks so they can get their message out there,” he said.
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Diossa, a former Central Falls mayor, entered the campaign late last year and scared off multiple potential Democratic opponents — but not Pryor, the former state commerce secretary, who made a late entry into the primary in June.
The primary is Sept. 13. The current treasurer, Democrat Seth Magaziner, is term-limited and running for Congress. The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican James Lathrop in November.
The cellphone and landline interview poll was conducted Aug. 7 through Aug. 10 by Fleming & Associates of Cumberland, R.I. The survey has an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus approximately 4.9 percentage points, but 6.2 points in the 2nd District. Fleming has been conducting polls for WPRI 12 since 1984.
Pryor’s campaign expressed satisfaction with the poll results Wednesday night.
“Mr. Diossa has been campaigning for eight months — almost three times as long as Stefan,” Anthony Cherry, senior advisor to the Pryor campaign, said in a statement. “That this race is already so competitive shows that Stefan Pryor has the momentum.”
“We are looking forward to getting the word out about Stefan Pryor’s strong track record — and his vision for building a healthier economic and financial future for our state,” Cherry added.
No statement had been issued by the Diossa campaign responding to the poll as of late Wednesday.
Pryor has established a significant financial advantage heading into the final stretch. He reported $262,000 in his campaign account as of Monday, and former Gov. Gina Raimondo — who brought him to Rhode Island in 2015 for the commerce job — is set to headline a fundraiser for him.
Diossa, 37, has the endorsements of the R.I. Democratic Party, as well as a long list of other current and former officeholders, and has split union endorsements with Pryor. He reported $167,000 in his campaign account as of Monday, and is supported by Gov. Dan McKee.
Pryor, 50, has already reserved TV advertising time for the final days of the race, while Diossa has not. Fleming said that while broadcast commercials are only one part of campaign strategy, it is likely to be important in a race where so few voters are tuned in.
“They have to get on TV to get known,” Fleming said. “Otherwise people are going to go into the voting booth and say, ‘Who do I want?’ And they don’t know.”
Diossa and Pryor met for their first televised debate on WPRI 12 earlier this month, clashing over who is better equipped to manage the state pension plan and whose background will be more appealing to average Rhode Island voters.
At least one outside group plans to spend money trying to sway voters in the treasurer’s race. Build New England Fund, an organization affiliated with the Laborers International Union, has transferred $25,000 earmarked to support Pryor into a Connecticut-based PAC called Democrats Serve, according to a disclosure filed with the Board of Elections.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook