A new poll commissioned and released by Providence Mayor Angel Taveras shows the first-term Democrat would start with a lead over Treasurer Gina Raimondo, his main rival for the party’s 2014 gubernatorial nomination, in a primary race.
The survey by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group shows Taveras at 49% and Raimondo at 30% among likely Democratic primary voters, with 21% undecided, according to a polling memo released to WPRI.com by Peter Baptista, the mayor’s campaign operative.
“Our survey findings show that Providence Mayor Angel Taveras is extremely well-regarded by Rhode Island Democrats, and that he would enter a potential primary election for governor with a healthy lead over [General] Treasurer Gina Raimondo,” pollster Frederick Yang wrote in the memo.
The Taveras campaign did not release the full results of the poll.
The telephone interview survey of 400 likely Rhode Island Democratic primary voters was conducted Sept. 10 to 12 by Garin-Hart-Yang, a Democratic-affiliated firm in Washington hired by Taveras to advise him on a possible bid for governor. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points. Garin-Hart-Yang is an arm of Peter D. Hart Research Associates, which helps conduct the widely respected WSJ/NBC News surveys.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who became a Democrat in May, upended the 2014 race earlier this month by abruptly announcing that he would not seek re-election after all. The poll was conducted for Taveras the week after Chafee exited the race.
Baptista emphasized that the release of the poll results is not a sign Taveras has made up his mind to run for governor, but said the findings will help him reach a decision in the coming months. The primary is Sept. 9, 2014, nearly a year from now.
Taveras himself downplayed the findings. “The poll is just a snapshot in time,” he said during a brief interview at City Hall. “I just want to stay focused and make a decision later this year.”
Raimondo’s spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
Yang said the poll shows both Democrats have high name recognition, with Taveras recognized by 92% of respondents and Raimondo recognized by 81%. However, the poll showed feelings about Taveras were 67% positive and 6% negative, versus 45% positive and 17% negative for Raimondo.
Yang said the survey “is fully representative of a Rhode Island Democratic primary by key geographic and demographic factors,” though there was no way to independently verify that without the full poll results being released. The sample was “60% Democrat and 40% unaffiliated,” which he said “is in line with past primary elections.”
Yang said his poll showed Taveras with double-digit leads among men and women. The mayor also had “a two-to-one advantage over Raimondo among Democrats” and led her among unaffiliated, or independent, primary voters. He also had the lead “in every region of the state,” Yang said.
The pollster said the findings left him “pleased” with the position Taveras is in if he runs.
“We understand that a lot can happen in the year leading up to the [primary] … and that the Taveras campaign has a considerable amount of work ahead to solidify his initial advantage,” Yang wrote. “However, we are confident that with an aggressive, resourced, and tightly managed campaign operation, Angel Taveras stands an excellent chance of prevailing in the Democratic primary for governor.”
Raimondo has established a significant financial advantage over Taveras ahead of the 2014 campaign. The treasurer had $2.06 million on hand as of June 30, while the mayor had $692,590. Both are working to raise more money this month before the third quarter closes on Sept. 30.
Raimondo and Taveras have both said they’ll decide whether to run for governor before the end of the year. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, a Republican, announced the formation of a gubernatorial exploratory committee last week and is set to run. Moderate Party founder Ken Block is also running again, possibly as a Republican.
• Related: Analysis: Chafee scrambles the 2014 campaign – once again (Sept. 4)
Dan McGowan contributed to this report.