WPRI 12/Journal Poll: Magaziner takes big lead over Caprio

Ralph Mollis, Guillaume de Ramel lead in other primary races

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Democrat Seth Magaziner has jumped out to a double-digit lead over his rival Frank Caprio in the primary for Rhode Island general treasurer, an exclusive WPRI 12/Providence Journal poll released Tuesday shows.

The new survey of 503 likely Rhode Island Democratic primary voters shows Magaziner on top with 43% support, with Caprio trailing in second place at 31%. Nearly one in four voters – 24% – say they’re still undecided about which man to support.

The poll reveals a major shift in the race for treasurer since the previous WPRI 12/Journal survey conducted in late May. At the time, with independent candidate Ernie Almonte still running as a Democrat, Caprio was on top with 29%, while Magaziner was at just 11% and Almonte was in single digits. No Republican candidate is running this year.

“Basically, Frank Caprio has the same amount of votes he had in May and Seth Magaziner has picked up enormous amounts of votes,” WPRI 12 political analyst Joe Fleming said. “It looks like he’s picked up the Almonte vote, and anyone who’s undecided is going over to Seth Magaziner at this point.”

The landline and cell-phone interview poll was conducted Monday, Aug. 11, through Thursday, Aug. 14, by Fleming & Associates of Cumberland, R.I. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus approximately 4.38 percentage points. Fleming has been conducting polls for WPRI 12 since 1984.

Magaziner, 31, is the investment-manager son of longtime Bill Clinton confidante and Bristol resident Ira Magaziner. He has been running TV commercials for nearly a month that present him as a fresh face and attack Caprio as a practitioner of “insider politics.” Caprio has recently criticized Magaziner over his investment credentials.

Dive into the interactive results of the August WPRI 12/Journal Campaign 2014 Poll.
Dive in to the interactive results of the August WPRI 12/Journal Campaign 2014 Poll.

Caprio, 48, served one term as Rhode Island’s treasurer from 2007 to 2011 but finished in third place as the Democratic nominee for governor in 2010 after spending nearly $3 million on his campaign. His brother, former state Rep. David Caprio, resigned as Democratic Party chairman last month amid controversy over a beach-concession contract.

In-Depth Interactive Poll Results: VIEW NOW »

Fleming said coverage of the beach contract, which is now being investigated by the R.I. Ethics Commission, appears to be a problem for Caprio even though he has not been tied to the matter. “That has played out in all the media … and that has become a focal point at this point, and I have to believe that has hurt Frank Caprio in this race,” he said.

“Everything has played out well for Magaziner so far,” Fleming added.

The poll shows Magaziner has quadrupled his support since May, and is now beating Caprio among every subgroup of voters except those between the ages of 18 and 39 – a somewhat ironic result since he himself is in that age group. Yet Fleming said that with roughly one in four voters undecided, Magaziner has yet to put the election away.

“Things can change,” he said. “Turnout makes a big difference. … I think Frank Caprio has to make a strong case that when he was general treasurer he did a good job. He’s been trying to do that with his ads, but the question is, is he doing a big enough buy for his ads to saturate the media?”

The most recent R.I. Board of Elections filings showed Caprio’s campaign had $112,765 on hand as of Aug. 11, while Magaziner’s was down to $31,512. The winner of the Sept. 9 Democratic primary will move on to face Almonte in the November election. All three candidates debated on WPRI 12’s Newsmakers last month.

Magaziner campaign manager Evan England said the WPRI 12/Journal poll “confirms that Rhode Islanders are excited about Seth Magaziner’s commitment to bring new energy and fresh ideas to the treasurer’s office, and to make a clean break from the insider politics and mismanagement that have held Rhode Island back for too long.”

Caprio spokeswoman Patti Doyle said he will continue to stress his experience going forward.

“In this comeback campaign, Frank is the only candidate in this race who has the track record of success … and we’re confident the voters will recognize that on Sept. 9 and on Election Day,” Doyle said. “With three weeks remaining, we look forward to campaigning hard for victory, and reaching as many voters as possible with our message of proven experience and leadership.”

Mollis leads for lieutenant governor

While most voters now have a favored candidate in the Democratic primary for general treasurer, the majority are still uncertain about the other two down-ballot races for statewide office.

Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis is the current frontrunner to succeed Elizabeth Roberts as lieutenant governor, the new poll shows. The survey finds 25% of Democratic primary voters are backing Mollis, compared with 15% who are supporting Cumberland Mayor Dan McKee and 10% who are supporting Warwick Rep. Frank Ferri.

But Fleming said the most striking number in the race for lieutenant governor is that 47% of primary voters say they aren’t sure whom to support. “This race has not gotten a lot of play,” he said. “Voters aren’t tuned into it at all.”

“If I’m Ralph Mollis I’d rather be ahead by 10 points than behind by 10 points, but there are still so many undecided that it’s really up for grabs,” Fleming added. The three candidates debated on WPRI 12’s Newsmakers last month.

“This poll confirms what we already knew: voters are still getting to know Frank Ferri but remain unimpressed with the far-better-known Ralph Mollis,” Ferri campaign manager Dawn Euer said in a statement, arguing her candidate will have “ample resources to be competitive” down the stretch.

Roberts, also a Democrat, is barred by term limits from running for lieutenant governor again this year. She has endorsed Ferri in the race. The winner of the Democratic primary will face the winner of the Republican primary between Catherine Taylor and Kara Young.

de Ramel on top for secretary of state

Even fewer Democratic primary voters have made up their minds in the race to succeed Mollis as secretary of state. Mollis, like Roberts, is barred by term limits from running again.

The new poll shows two-time candidate Guillaume de Ramel in the lead with 27% of the vote, more than double the 13% support received by his opponent Nellie Gorbea, who was a deputy secretary of state under Matt Brown. More than half of voters aren’t backing either candidate yet.

“The big story is 57% of the voters said they don’t know who they’re voting for,” Fleming said. “This is another race that could come down to election day.”

de Ramel, who is independently wealthy and has a significant financial advantage over Gorbea, has already been airing TV ads to build up his name recognition, and is also the Rhode Island Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate, which could help him, Fleming said.

“But again, people aren’t zeroing in on these races,” he said.

The two candidates debated on WPRI 12’s Newsmakers last month. The winner of the Sept. 9 primary between de Ramel and Gorbea will go on to face Republican John Carlevale in the November election.

Dave Hoffman, de Ramel’s campaign manager, welcomed the new poll results.

“Guillaume is running for secretary of state to reform lobbying so something like 38 Studios never happens again, modernize the way Rhode Islanders vote to increase participation, and improve the business climate and help put Rhode Islanders back to work — and that message is resonating,” Hoffman said.

Rico Vota, Gorbea’s campaign manager, suggested the huge number of undecided voters shows she has a path to victory. He noted that the last time de Ramel ran, in 2006, a poll one month out from the primary showed him ahead of Mollis by 10 points, but de Ramel went on to lose.

“Despite his unlimited ability and effort to outspend her, Ms. Gorbea’s opponent has not been able to make a compelling case to voters,” Vota said. “His lack of transparency in his financial dealings raise questions.”

Ted Nesi ( tnesi@wpri.com ) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter: @white_tim

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