PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s congressional candidates are starting to run low on cash as the Democratic primary enters its final days.
Campaign-finance reports due to the Federal Election Commission by the end of the day Thursday showed most of the major candidates had less than $200,000 left in the bank for the final sprint.
The exception was Jamestown lawyer Don Carlson, who was still the best-funded candidate in the race as of Aug. 16 after loaning his campaign $600,000 earlier this year.
Carlson’s report showed he had $266,000 left in his campaign account as of Aug. 16, even though he’d received just $56,000 in donations over the previous six weeks — significantly less than his rivals. He loaned no additional money to his campaign during the reporting period.
After Carlson, the candidate with the most cash in the bank was former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg, who is now the widely acknowledged frontrunner in the primary. Regunberg had $191,000 left as of Aug. 16 after raising $159,000 over the previous six weeks.
Up next was former White House official Gabe Amo, who earlier Thursday released an internal poll showing him running second behind Regunberg among primary voters. Amo had $155,000 left as of Aug. 16 after raising $141,000 over the previous six weeks.
Trailing Amo was Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, whose campaign has struggled to find its footing after a scandal over forged signatures on her nomination papers. Matos had the strongest fundraising quarter of any Democrat in recent weeks — raising $240,000 — but was left with only $126,000 on hand as of Aug. 16.
None of the other eight Democrats running in the primary reported over $100,000 on hand as of last week.
Money raised by the candidates for their own campaigns is far from the only spending in the 1st Congressional District race, however. Over $1 million in outside spending has poured into Rhode Island in recent weeks as national groups seek to sway primary voters.
The biggest beneficiary by far has been Matos, who’s been bolstered by roughly $800,000 in spending by three Washington groups: the Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC, Emily’s List, and Elect Democratic Women. Most of that money has gone toward TV ads that aired earlier in August.
Regunberg has had the help of a controversial super PAC backed by his family, Progress Rhode Island, which was almost entirely funded by a $125,000 contribution from his financier father-in-law. The Working Families Party, a progressive group, reported spending $150,000 this week on digital ads supporting Regunberg, as well.
Smaller amounts have come in for other candidates to date. State Rep. Stephen Casey got about $64,000 in outside help from a company in Maryland, while Amo had almost $50,000 spent on his behalf by Democrats Serve PAC and Carlson received about $14,000 in support from the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund.
Notably, so far no outside money has been spent attacking a candidate, though Regunberg’s campaign in particular is bracing for the possibility that could happen between now and the primary.
No public polling has been released in the 1st District primary, but only five Democrats have had the resources to go up on TV with campaign ads: Regunberg, Amo, Matos, Carlson, and state Sen. Sandra Cano. WPRI 12 will broadcast a live prime-time Democratic primary debate next Tuesday at 7 p.m. from Rhode Island College.
The eventual Democratic nominee will go on to face the winner of the Republican primary between Gerry Leonard and Terri Flynn in the Nov. 7 special election.
Leonard, who is endorsed by the state GOP, reported raising $40,000 over the last six weeks. He had $111,000 on hand as of Aug. 16, in part due to a $50,000 loan he made to the campaign earlier this year.
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.