PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor is leaving his current $232,778 a year cabinet post in two weeks to run for state treasurer.
Pryor’s long-anticipated announcement on Tuesday creates a two-way contest for the Democratic nomination between Pryor and former Central Falls Mayor James Diossa. The winner will face North Kingstown Finance Director Jim Lathrop, a Republican.
It is not yet clear who will take Pryor’s place at Rhode Island Commerce. But he promised that in the two weeks before he steps into his new role – as a candidate – Pryor said he would not accept any campaign contributions from any Rhode Island-based donors.
In Rhode Island, the state treasurer oversees the state-run state employee, teacher and municipal employee retirement funds, the investment of more than $10 billion in pension-fund assets and a crime-victims compensation fund.
For months after his Yale Law School classmate Gina Raimondo resigned as Rhode Island governor to take a Biden cabinet post in March 2021, political oddsmakers bet her commerce secretary would follow her to Washington.
But that was not where Pryor, 50, hoped to land next.
If elected, Pryor – in an exclusive interview with The Journal – said he would double down on term-limited Treas. Seth Magaziner’s school construction bond campaign.
But he described a long list of new programs and goals he hoped to usher in, including the investment of more state dollars in “Rhode Island-based assets,” and the creation of a state-backed “loan loss reserve” for private bank loans
“I believe that the platform of the treasurer’s office can be utilized to support small businesses, to invest in green energy, to support individuals and families who are unable to access the banking system of our state.”
Some personal facts about Pryor: he is the son of two public school teachers. He ran for office once before – while still an under-graduate at Yale – and served a short time as an alderman in New Haven, Conn.
Pryor held off announcing until the year-old McKee administration was ready to announce the terms of the deal that Pryor has been working – and re-working behind the scenes – to save the long-empty “Superman” building that defines the skyline in downtown Providence.
The magnitude of the proposed state and local subsidies – and the potential cost to buy or rent the 285 envisioned apartments in the reborn bank building – have sparked some controversy.
But Pryor – who is bullish on the potential for the proposed deal that caps his seven years in government – said Tuesday he negotiated hard, driving the size of the state subsidy package down from the $48 million the building owner wanted to $26 million.
He said the 20% affordable housing carve-out in the deal will include homes for “low-income residents as well as individuals and families who are firefighters, teachers, police officers and nurses.”
Pryor was one of then-Governor-elect Raimondo’s first cabinet picks in December 2014, when she hired him away from his then job as Connecticut’s commissioner of education, to become Rhode Island’s first commerce secretary.
Before that, he served five years as Newark’s deputy mayor and director of economic and housing development under then-Mayor Cory Booker. Pryor also worked as president for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks to coordinate economic revitalization of Lower Manhattan.
As head of the Manhattan redevelopment after, he said, he “successfully managed the investment of billions of dollars.”
And now Pryor – who by virtue of his past positions, has focused on building up the reputations of rising Democratic leaders on the East Coast – has to sell himself as the best qualified successor to Magaziner, who is running for Congress.