Happy Saturday! Here’s another edition of my weekend column for WPRI.com — as always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to tnesi@wpri.com and follow me on Twitter and on Facebook.

1. These days, Aaron Regunberg’s campaign team has the unmistakable confidence of a group that thinks everything is coming together at just the right moment. Regunberg has combined a lefty message, strong fundraising and intensive organizing to capitalize on Sabina Matos’s struggles and position himself to win the Democratic congressional nomination on Sept. 5. And he’s about to get a boost from the biggest name in progressive politics: I’ve confirmed Bernie Sanders has agreed to come to Providence and headline a get-out-the-vote rally for Regunberg next Sunday at the Columbus Theatre. The Matos campaign is clearly awake to the threat, filing an FEC complaint Friday over Regunberg’s family super PAC and blasting out a post-debate memo criticizing him. Matos certainly hasn’t lacked for resources, with outside spending on her behalf at $800,000 and counting so far. Yet her campaign can’t seem to find its groove; this week a Board of Elections seal of approval over her signatures somehow ended in a news cycle about Governor McKee rebuking a New York congressman campaigning for her. Also intriguing was the Matos campaign’s decision to target only one other Democrat beyond Regunberg in their post-debate memo: Gabe Amo, who’s been fighting to position himself as the most credible alternative to the top two. In doing so, the Matos campaign suggested Amo is their biggest rival for support among Democratic voters seeking a more mainstream alternative to Regunberg’s full-throated leftism. All the while, Sandra Cano’s campaign has continued to impress observers, methodically piling up endorsements from elected officials and major labor unions as she seeks to springboard to an upset win off her Blackstone Valley base.

2. With less than three weeks to go before Sept. 5, who’s going to have the money to compete? As it is, only five of the 12 Democratic candidates have raised enough to go on the air with TV ads: Sabina Matos, Aaron Regunberg, Gabe Amo, Sandra Cano and Don Carlson. Matos is well-positioned to stay on the air for the final stretch: her campaign tells me she raised about $240,000 during the six-week fundraising period that ended Wednesday, leaving her with about $130,000 cash on hand. Regunberg’s campaign said he raised about $155,000 over the same period of time, but wouldn’t disclose his current cash position. And Cano’s campaign said she raised about $40,000, leaving her with about $55,000 to spend through the primary. Amo’s campaign declined to comment on their fundraising numbers at all, leaving the other campaigns in the dark about his resources until he’s required to disclose the number Thursday. As for Carlson, his campaign failed to respond to two emails requesting information about his fundraising.

3. One of the congressional candidates with a unique backstory is Walter Berbrick, who has deep expertise in naval affairs after serving in the U.S. Navy post-9/11 and later teaching at the Naval War College in Newport. Appearing on this week’s Newsmakers — where he acknowledged his long odds in the Democratic primary — Berbrick said he shares the alarm of other analysts who think the U.S. is losing its edge over China on naval superiority. “It is one of the biggest problems we’re facing as a country, in being able to maintain a credible, powerful military to deter and defeat threats,” he said, adding, “Look, you know, in San Francisco Bay we were building a ship a day during World War II. We don’t have that industrial capacity today.” Yet Berbrick was quick to emphasize that he doesn’t support increasing the size of the Pentagon budget, which will hit $877 billion next year under the defense bill Jack Reed is currently shepherding through Congress. In fact, Berbrick said if he’d been in the House at the time he would have joined another local veteran-turned-lawmaker, Massachusetts’ Jake Auchincloss, in voting against the annual defense spending bill. “We’ve got to spend smarter, not bigger,” Berbrick argued.

4. Another of the Democratic candidates, John Goncalves, already holds elected office as a Providence City Council member representing the East Side. His ward was the site of a big YIMBY-vs.-NIMBY fight this week as neighbors fought against a developer’s proposal to build a new 62-unit apartment building on Wickenden Street. Goncalves was criticized for failing to take a clear position for or against the project, whose developer is one of his campaign contributors. Appearing on this week’s Newsmakers, Goncalves said he was pleased with the changes to the project backed by city zoning regulators, and also said he wants to create a historic district overlay in Fox Point to raise the bar for development. Steps like that, of course, are anathema to advocates of housing abundance, who argue the last thing Northeast cities need is more red tape limiting the construction of new units. Goncalves insisted he isn’t talking out of both sides of his mouth by bemoaning Providence’s housing shortage while proposing policies that could make it harder to build. “The people who live in College Hill, they live in that neighborhood for a reason,” he said. “They love their single-family homes. It’s what makes Providence very special. So our zoning laws need to have nuance to them. Now on the other hand, we need to make sure that we can push for more density in places like downtown.”

5. Once the dust settles from the 1st Congressional District special election, attention will quickly turn to the regularly scheduled 2024 election — including Sheldon Whitehouse’s bid for a fourth U.S. Senate term against, so far, Republicans Patricia Morgan and Ray McKay. There’s little doubt the incumbent Democrat will have a big financial advantage, considering he’s already sitting on over $2.5 million in campaign cash. Whitehouse plans to add to that stockpile Wednesday night when he holds a high-dollar fundraiser at the Jamestown home of Liz Beretta-Perik and her husband Mike, with suggested contributions as high as the $3,300 federal maximum. Prominent names on the host committee include Joe Shekarchi, Helena Foulkes, and quite a few state lawmakers. The money raised will go to a newly formed fundraising vehicle, Whitehouse Victory Fund 2024, which will split the cash between Whitehouse’s campaign account, his leadership PAC account (Oceans PAC), and the R.I. Democratic Party. Example: an individual who writes a $21,600 check at the fundraiser would in practice be giving $6,600 to Whitehouse’s campaign account (half for the primary, half for the general election); $5,000 to Oceans PAC; and $10,000 to the party.

6. Separately, Senator Whitehouse received accolades this past week from none other than former Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a White House event marking one year since the president signed the Inflation Reduction Act. “I want to tip my hat to Sheldon Whitehouse,” Pelosi said. “Relentless. Persistent. Just there, whether it’s a [United Nations] COP meeting, wherever it happens to be, or just a small little press conference that we might be having, he is always there, and I thank him for his persistent leadership.”

7. Should Midwest grocery company Kroger be allowed to buy its rival Albertsons? Secretary of State Gregg Amore doesn’t think so; he just signed a letter with seven of his Democratic counterparts opposing the deal, per a Cincinnati Business Courier report.

8. Here’s a dispatch from my Target 12 colleague Tim White: “Did someone say ‘heist’? The brazen theft of nearly a half-million dollars in cash from a Santander branch on Federal Hill in June has captivated many and exasperated law enforcement for weeks. Then on Wednesday night, 12 News videographers John Villella and Ryan Welch captured exclusive video of police cuffing two suspects at a Pawtucket hotel. Target 12 got its hands on court documents from the investigation, and the details from the police affidavits sure look damning for the suspects: there’s security camera video, a lack of cooperation by the now-former bank employee who is a lead suspect, and most importantly, a third suspect spilled the beans to police in an interrogation while in custody. Slam dunk for prosecutors, right? Not so fast. A big question is, will that third suspect actually testify at trial? If not, the statements she made to detectives — which were fine to establish probable cause for an arrest warrant — would likely not be admissible at trial. ‘It’s pure unadulterated hearsay,’ RWU School of Law Associate Dean Andy Horwitz told me. ‘We don’t allow that in [at trial] as hearsay because there is no way for a defendant to challenge it, to cross-examine the speaker, to do the kind of testing we like to do to see whether someone should believe a statement.’ Yes, there is other evidence, but the security video doesn’t appear to clearly identify the masked suspects, and most of the money is still missing. No doubt, prosecutors can always try and nudge that third suspect to testify against her alleged co-conspirators by offering a deal for leniency. But it’s no sure thing. So, despite the dramatic arrest earlier this week, it’s safe to say that the investigation still has a ways to go.”

9. Pawtucket officials initially poured cold water on the out-of-left-field news that billionaire New York developer Stefan Soloviev might want to purchase McCoy Stadium. But now it seems city officials are taking the idea much more seriously, even contemplating alternative locations for a new high school if the stadium site isn’t available after all. Soloviev Group CEO Michael Hershman reinforced the company’s enthusiasm about McCoy during a live interview Friday on 12 News at 4 with Kim Kalunian. “We don’t want to do anything that would impede the building of a high school,” Hershman told Kim. “I know that’s needed in Pawtucket. We are fully behind it. So this is not an either/or — either we’re going to save McCoy Stadium or we’re going to have a high school. A high school has got to be built. The only question is, could it be built somewhere else?” He added that Soloviev hopes to get a formal proposal to Pawtucket by the end of this month.

10. There was a definite class-reunion feel to Thursday night’s State House ceremony for the unveiling of Gina Raimondo’s official gubernatorial portrait, with many of her former staffers and elected counterparts gathered together in an absolutely sweltering State Room. You can watch the full ceremony here.

11. New gigs … state Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy, the longest-serving member of the Rhode Island House, is the new president of the National Conference of State Legislatures; a long list of his colleagues were in Indianapolis to see him installed this week … 2022 (and 2026?) gubernatorial candidate Helena Foulkes has joined the board of directors of Costco; perhaps she’ll finally get that Cranston location over the finish line … apparently unfazed by all the indictments, former Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson has agreed to once again serve as honorary chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in Massachusetts for 2024.

12. Do you know a great public servant in Rhode Island? RIPEC wants to know. The public policy group is soliciting nominations for its 47th annual Public Service Awards, which will be given out at its annual meeting on Nov. 6. Information about the requirements for honorees is available here, with nominations due by Sept. 15.

13. Our WPRI 12 team was over the moon this week to learn that the Radio Television Digital News Association has honored us with a national Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence — one of only eight newsrooms in the whole country to receive the award. It’s a credit to the commitment and vision of both our general manager, Patrick Wholey, and our news director, Karen Rezendes, who have been my bosses for the past decade. And as the two of them were quick to say, it’s also a credit to every person who works at WPRI getting the news out every day — reporters, photographers, meteorologists, producers, editors, directors, technicians. I’m proud to work here. And congratulations as well to the other newsrooms who earned the Murrow for excellence this year: ABC News, WFAA-TV, Texas Public Radio, WCHS MetroNews Radio, the Texas Tribune, and the Center for Public Integrity. What good company!

14. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers — Democratic congressional candidates John Goncalves and Walter Berbrick. Watch Sunday at 5:30 a.m. on WPRI 12 and 10 a.m. on Fox Providence, or listen on the radio Sunday at 6 p.m. on WPRO. You can also subscribe to Newsmakers as a podcast on iTunes (or wherever you get your podcasts). See you back here next Saturday morning.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) 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.