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Raimondo leads in gubernatorial poll

Clay Pell’s support nearly tripled over the summer, threatening Angel Taveras in Democratic primary

Over the summer, the Rhode Island gubernatorial race intensified as advertising campaigns were launched, candidates left the field and the Sept. 9 primary for both major parties drew near.

A WPRI poll of the Democratic gubernatorial race conducted from Aug. 11 to 14 shows General Treasurer Gina Raimondo leading Providence Mayor Angel Taveras by 5 percentage points and Clay Pell, a political newcomer and the grandson of the late Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., by 6 points. The three candidates received support from about 32 percent, 27 percent and 26 percent of those polled, respectively.

The poll shows frontrunner Raimondo leading the other Democratic candidates among multiple demographic groups, including men, women, middle-aged voters and senior citizens, though nearly 13 percent remain undecided. Taveras leads with voters ages 18 to 39 but is tied with Pell in support from union voters. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Todd Giroux received support from under 2 percent of those polled.

In the Democratic primary, “it is unclear who labor backs,” said Ted Nesi, WPRI political correspondent, noting that Raimondo is generally favored by private-sector labor unions, while Taveras and Pell are receiving roughly equal support from public-sector labor unions. Pell advantageously received support from the teachers’ unions, Nesi said. “The potential is there for Clay Pell to take voters from Angel Taveras and give the primary to Raimondo,” Nesi said, adding that the division among unions has added an interesting dynamic to the Democratic race.

WPRI’s recent poll results may show that significant changes occurred in the race’s trajectory over the summer.

An April poll by the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions found that among likely Democratic primary voters, nearly one third at the time supported Raimondo, roughly one quarter backed Taveras and about 35 percent remained undecided, The Herald previously reported.

Though Raimondo’s lead over Taveras has not increased dramatically since April — rising just under 2 percentage points — Pell’s support has nearly tripled, while the percentage of undecided voters has plummeted by more than 22 percentage points, according to a comparison of the two polls.

“Clay Pell is now a real threat to Angel Taveras, and maybe even to Gina Raimondo,” Nesi said, adding that Pell “has dumped a huge amount of his own money” into his campaign to bolster support.

Though there are no August poll results for the Republican gubernatorial race between businessman Ken Block and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, Block’s campaign manager Jeff Britt said “we are in pretty good shape going into the primary,” adding that a Block campaign poll conducted in July indicated that Block held a 9-point lead over Fung.

But Nesi said he was not wholly persuaded by the Block campaign’s claims. “We’ll see next week if their polling was right,” he said, adding that it is difficult to get a sense of where the Republican primary stands given that Republican voter sample sizes are small in Rhode Island, and voter turnout is highly variable.

Britt emphasized that Block’s participation in several debates and forums throughout the summer has allowed the campaign to establish “a good level of communication with the media and the public.”

“It’s regrettable,” Britt said of Fung’s ad campaigns, which he characterized as uncharitable and sometimes misleading, adding that the Block campaign is “going to stay positive.” Block has tried to avoid running negative ads about his opponent, though he has sometimes been forced to respond to Fung’s ads with “contrast pieces,” Britt said.

“There’s no doubt that Allan Fung definitely went negative first,” Nesi said, noting that in spite of this, the Block campaign has “not been shy” about responding accordingly.

In April, several of the Democratic candidates signed a People’s Pledge that stipulated that candidates would pay for any third-party attack ads or self-promotion ads, though the Repulican candidates did not sign the agreement.

Despite the pledge, Raimondo, Taveras and Pell have spent approximately $10 million among the three of them, marking a “massive amount of money,” Nesi said. “In some ways, it’s hard to tell who (the People’s Pledge) benefitted,” since it is hard to establish which Democratic candidate would have received the most third-party help, he added.


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