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. Take a close look at the date on the top of this column — Rhode Island is now exactly one month away from the Sept. 5 congressional primary. And the race is heating up fast, thanks to a combination of the Sabina Matos signature scandal and the continued countdown of the calendar. It’s no longer clear if the race even has a frontrunner. Matos keeps suffering bad news cycles over her signatures — the Board of Elections just scheduled a surprise meeting for Tuesday to consider a wider investigation — and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus super PAC’s huge outlays for Matos can only offset so much of that. Aaron Regunberg has been seen as the biggest threat to Matos if he can consolidate progressive voters, but he also has some vocal left-wing critics and is now ensnared in controversy over his family-funded super PAC. Appearing on this week’s Newsmakers, Gabe Amo said voters on their doorsteps are open-minded and responding positively to his opening TV ad, but he’s also a first-time candidate with less institutional support than Matos or Regunberg. Sandra Cano has an impressive list of elected officials backing her and a geographic base in the Blackstone Valley, but can’t match the other top-tier candidates on TV. Don Carlson is placing a huge bet on paid media, but so far isn’t spending enough to establish clear advertising dominance in the race. And the other seven Democratic candidates are all operating at a financial disadvantage compared to the top five. That said, even the candidates who don’t win could still affect the final outcome; they will scramble the math in the precincts they currently represent, depriving the leading candidates of votes they could sorely use.

2. Running for Congress ain’t easy. Just ask Allan Fung, who came up short last year’s hugely expensive 2nd District contest. Or ask Angel Taveras, who was part of the four-way contest that sent Jim Langevin to Congress back in 2000. Actually, you don’t have to ask them — Tim White and I did for you, bringing on the bipartisan pair of former mayors to analyze the 1st District race as part of this week’s Newsmakers. (They’re also old friends who attended Classical High School together.) Both agreed that the signature scandal is a real problem for Sabina Matos. “We’ll find out for sure in a month, but I do think it did damage — without a doubt,” Taveras said, adding, “It’s created an opening, I think, for other candidates.” Fung faulted Matos for declining to speak publicly about the situation during the initial week of revelations, saying, “When you’re trying to go for governor, Congress, any of these higher offices, people want to see confidence, leadership, and an ability to act and not be afraid.” But Taveras countered that the drip-drip-drip of disclosures made that advice harder to follow. “I think that would have helped if it was just one real story,” he said. “But when you had multiple towns and you had multiple stories, I think it became even a bigger problem.” As for all the other candidates, their top challenge is, well, all the other candidates. “The biggest thing is to try to get your message out there to the voters, and it’s really challenging for them because there are so many of them,” said Taveras. “And that’s going to be a challenge, to break through and have a message that resonates with that many candidates.”

3. Mark your calendars: WPRI 12 will host a live prime-time TV debate for the Democratic congressional primary on Tuesday, Aug. 29 at 7 p.m., moderated by Tim White and yours truly from the campus of Rhode Island College. All the candidates who qualify under our parent company’s nationwide criteria will be invited. There will also be a limited number of tickets available to attend the debate in person at RIC; stay tuned for more details on that.

4. Mayor Smiley wants the Cranston Street Armory — along with a check from the state.

5. The Warwick City Council is under fire for shutting down criticism of one of its members.

6. As a political observer, it’s important to never overlook the obvious. And it seems obvious that the country is in a highly combustible situation right now due to the multiple criminal indictments of Donald Trump. A former president is facing trial on federal charges at the same time his party’s voters are poised to nominate him again and, potentially, send him back to the White House. It’s conceivable Trump could be convicted after having secured the GOP nomination but before the November election. As others have noted, that will make the stakes of the campaign truly existential for Trump — if he wins, he will presumably get the case dropped on Jan. 20, 2025; if he loses, he could face prison time. It’s an extraordinary situation. Rhode Island GOP Chairman Joe Powers echoed Trump’s defenders in a statement Thursday, saying, “President Trump, like every American across the country, has the right to due process. However, the timing of the prosecution does appear politically motivated. Every Rhode Islander will have an opportunity to restore equal application of the law next year at the ballot box.” Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse had a rather different take: “There are few more serious crimes a president can be charged with than attempting to subvert the will of the American people to stay in power. This proceeding needs to play out peacefully and fairly in the justice system, and I hope our democracy will emerge stronger from it.” Will it?

7. Attleboro Mayor Cathleen DeSimone has only been in office for five months, but apparently she’s made a good early impression on voters there. DeSimone is running unopposed for a full term in this fall’s municipal election, after no other candidates stepped forward to challenge her. The last time that happened was 2015, when longtime incumbent Kevin Dumas faced no opposition (only to get bounced from office by Paul Heroux two years later). DeSimone’s good week continued Thursday, when Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll paid a visit to the city — including a hot dog at Tex Barry’s that made it to Twitter.

8. Remember Helen Brady, the anti-vaccine activist who was the unsuccessful Republican nominee against New Bedford Congressman Bill Keating back in 2020? She’s turned up again in politics – as a staffer on Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign.

9. I’ve been touched and gratified to hear from so many people since Tuesday’s story about my mother’s death from glioblastoma and the state of research into brain cancer. It’s been particularly affecting to talk with others who also lost loved ones to the disease, a number of whom shared the perception that glioblastoma gets less attention than other cancers despite its dire consequences and challenging biology. If you missed it, you can watch the full story here (videography by the great Johnny Villella). I also spoke with The Boston Globe’s Brian Amaral and WPRO’s Tara Granahan about why I decided to do the story and what I learned from the reporting process. Love you, Mom.

10. How did they make Harrison Ford look so young in the new Indiana Jones movie?

11. Heading to the Newport Jazz Festival on Sunday? I’ll be there — make sure to say hi!

12. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers — Democratic congressional candidate Gabe Amo; a political roundtable with Allan Fung and Angel Taveras. 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.