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. Here’s a scenario for you. A somewhat stiff Rhode Island Democrat from a well-connected family is running for Congress after serving in statewide office and trying to get elected governor. He faces a popular Republican who’s been on the political scene long enough to define himself apart from the national GOP. The Democrat’s strategy: shift the focus from the Republican as an individual to the fact that he’d vote to put a GOP leader in charge on Capitol Hill. That précis sums up Sheldon Whitehouse’s successful 2006 campaign against Lincoln Chafee — and now Seth Magaziner is trying to run the same playbook against Allan Fung in 2022, with an assist from Jim Langevin. “To vote for a conservative speaker means that the most conservative things, the most right-wing things, are the things that are going to come up for a vote,” Langevin said at a news conference this week where he urged Democrats to close ranks behind Magaziner as his replacement. It’s an understandable strategy in a state as Democratic-leaning as Rhode Island. But 2022 is not 2006. Whitehouse was running with the wind at his back, as President Bush’s unpopularity bolstered Democratic fortunes coast to coast. This time the White House occupant is a Democrat — and research by Fung supporter Steve Frias suggests Joe Biden is more unpopular in Rhode Island than any Democratic president in a midterm year in decades. And as Tim White points out, Whitehouse had the advantage of running statewide, while Magaziner is running in the more GOP-friendly of Rhode Island’s two congressional districts. “I’ve been out there talking to, not just Republicans, but Democrats, independents, Green Party, moderates — and everyone has basically been shellshocked by these policies coming out of Washington,” Fung told my colleague Chelsea Jones this week. Republicans also argue Whitehouse had a stronger case to make that he might be the crucial 51st vote to decide control of the Senate — which, it turned out, he was — while Fung is unlikely to be the tipping point to make Kevin McCarthy speaker. Yet it’s too soon for Fung to start measuring the drapes. The new Globe/Suffolk poll shows Magaziner in striking distance, and the Supreme Court has done blue-state Republicans no favors by raising the salience of issues such as abortion and guns. The ongoing revelations about Jan. 6 also ensure Donald Trump will remain in the headlines, and he has proven to be a one-man get-out-the-vote operation for Democrats as well as Republicans over the last six years.

2. The Globe/Suffolk poll only added to the angst among some Democrats about what they view as the party’s squandered opportunity to gerrymander the 2nd District in their favor. General Assembly leaders only tweaked the lines between the two districts last year, rather than trying to more aggressively shift some Democratic precincts from David Cicilline’s territory into the 2nd. That could now come back to bite the party by putting Allan Fung on more favorable terrain this fall — and it’s quite a contrast with the aggressively partisan map-drawing of Republican and Democratic leaders in many other states. House Speaker Joe Shekarchi insists he avoided meddling in the maps in general, and if others wanted to see a redrawn 2nd District they should have spoken up. “What I would say to anybody who asks me or wanted to change them, then they needed to come before the redistricting committee — we had 10, 12, 15 public hearings throughout the state, more than any other time — and make your case as to why it needs to be changed,” Shekarchi said on this week’s Newsmakers. But the speaker also acknowledged Langevin didn’t inform him their party would be facing an open-seat race until the draft maps were being finalized. “I knew in January,” he said. “I had some private conversations with Congressman Langevin and he indicated to me that he was on the fence and he would make his decision after talking to his family and his close staff members.” (Shekarchi added that Langevin encouraged him to run for the job, but he decided he prefers being speaker.)

3. I canvassed the 2nd District candidates on Friday about their second-quarter fundraising totals, and so far only Sarah Morgenthau is willing to share numbers. Morgenthau’s campaign manager reports she raised roughly $324,000 during the quarter, finishing with a bit over $600,000 cash on hand. While the Globe survey was a disappointment to Morgenthau — she polled at just 3% despite being the only candidate on TV — her team took heart from a quietly released RMG Research survey that had her in second at 9%, as well as an endorsement from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. (Though you have to wonder what Jack Reed thinks about that.)

4. If anyone tells you they know how the Democratic primary for governor is going to end, they’re fooling themselves. The new Globe/Suffolk poll still shows a tight race between Nellie Gorbea and Dan McKee, just as our 12 News/RWU poll did last month, but with first place flipping to Gorbea — and Helena Foulkes moving into contention. “The voters have not really latched onto any of the five candidates running right now,” says our political analyst Joe Fleming, which means “there’s going to be a lot of movement in the next few weeks.” McKee got a feather in his cap on Sunday night when the R.I. Democratic Party state committee voted to endorse him. He then spent the week touring the state on an #RIMomentum tour organized by his office, signing the budget as well as bills to expand offshore wind and grant driving privileges to immigrants in the country illegally. Gorbea and Foulkes meanwhile continued their TV advertising campaigns and focused on fundraising ahead of Thursday’s end-of-quarter deadline. But Fleming notes that the present lack of enthusiasm about all the Democrats could translate into low voter turnout on Sept. 13, which could make each campaign’s get-out-the-vote operation even more important.

5. The Globe poll made quite a splash, offering further evidence that CEO Linda Pizzuti Henry and top editor Brian McGrory are seeing a payoff from their bet on a big Rhode Island expansion. It was also a civic contribution, since Rhode Island hasn’t been blessed with much quality polling data in recent years (with the happy exception of our own long-running WPRI 12 surveys). With that in mind, I asked McGrory on Friday if he plans to commission more Rhode Island polls this year. “RI politics is fascinating and lively, and we’re delighted to have a role in covering it,” he replied. “We’re pleased that this poll contributed to the conversation. We’re keeping options wide open to do another.”

6. The Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade continues to reverberate on Smith Hill. During his interview on Newsmakers, Speaker Shekarchi said he sees the issues raised by the ruling as far broader than the question of whether the state should cover abortions for Medicaid recipients and public employees. Shekarchi said next year he will ask the House to consider a constitutional amendment that would establish a right to privacy in the state. The decision on abortion rights “will have long-range implications well beyond Roe,” he said, adding, “We can’t depend on Washington anymore. We need to look at what’s going to affect Rhode Island. … We need to be very clear about what kind of society we want to live in in Rhode Island. Do we want to have individual freedoms and liberties here? Do we want to enjoy the stuff that we’ve enjoyed for the last 30, 40, 50 years? Because clearly you have an activist court that has thrown precedent out the window.”

7. A strange story that has been in and out of the headlines over the last year has been the suspicious fire that burned down Speaker Shekarchi’s law office. Asked by Tim White for an update, Shekarchi said on Newsmakers, “I have a little bit of information — the FBI and the authorities have asked me not to share that, so I don’t want to share that publicly.” He said he doesn’t think an arrest is imminent, but added, “based on the information over the last year, I believe it was a targeted attack, a targeted act. I don’t necessarily know who did it or why. I leave that to the authorities. … It’s unnerving, but I go on.”

8. Just a week ago, everyone at the State House expected Senate Majority Leader Mike McCaffrey to seek re-election and eventually run to succeed Dominick Ruggerio as Senate president. Now McCaffrey is retiring, giving Jennifer Rourke better odds of winning the primary for his seat (especially after last week) and giving one of these three senators a strong shot at being the new majority leader.

9. Brett Smiley’s mayoral campaign got another boost this week when the Providence Democratic City Committee endorsed him over Gonzalo Cuervo in a lopsided vote of 58-17; Nirva LaFortune got seven votes. There has been no polling in the contest for mayor, but nobody seems to dispute that Smiley is in a formidable position. As time grows short, can Cuervo or LaFortune come up with a message that breaks through with voters and knocks the Smiley team off its game?

10. More on Providence City Hall from Steph Machado … the City Council is set for a big shakeup next January … city leaders are seriously considering an elected school boardMichael Stephens, the new police official for community relations whose appointment caused controversy, and Maj. Kevin Lanni join Steph for a new Pulse of Providence.

11. Here’s a dispatch from my Target 12 colleague Eli Sherman: “Stefan Pryor is officially a full-time Democratic candidate for general treasurer after stepping down as commerce secretary on June 21. Appearing on Newsmakers for his first TV interview as a candidate, Pryor argued Rhode Island’s economy is recovering from the pandemic relatively well compared to other states. But Pryor said he’d like to expand the role of the general treasurer’s office, which typically focuses on the state’s finances and retiree pension system, to include economic growth as a goal. ‘I would make sure we use it, we use the leverage of it, we use the tools of it, and we grow some new programs to make the economy even stronger,’ Pryor said. He also discussed some of the major projects in progress when he left Commerce, including the increasingly expensive Pawtucket soccer stadium development deal. The project remains in limbo, as Commerce board members are undecided as to whether to provide Fortuitous Partners with tens of millions of dollars more in taxpayer support for the stadium than initially requested. ‘That deal has to be carefully constructed and has the potential to be a real positive contribution to Pawtucket and Rhode Island under the right circumstances,’ Pryor said. The soaring costs also cast a question-mark over another high-profile development Pryor helped negotiate, to rehabilitate the Superman building in downtown Providence. Asked whether taxpayers should expect those costs to also rise, Pryor noted developer David Sweetser’s cost estimates were made recently and therefore should reflect current market conditions. But he also encouraged his successors and other public officials to ‘hold the line as best they can as construction estimates go in.’”

12. Stefan Pryor’s Democratic primary opponent for treasurer, James Diossa, won a tight race for the state party endorsement last Sunday by a single-digit margin. Speaker Shekarchi had encouraged Pryor to run, and it’s possible his endorsement could have put Pryor over the top — but so far Shekarchi has declined to pick a horse in the race. (He told me after Friday’s Newsmakers taping that he might have endorsed if Pryor had entered the race earlier.) Pryor still picked up new support this week, as one of 19 candidates endorsed by Democrats Serve PAC, a group led by operative Brett Broesder, who has experience in Rhode Island and Connecticut. The Pryor campaign separately challenged Diossa to at least three debates — and one of the three is now on the books after both candidates agreed to debate on WPRI 12 in August.

13. Here’s a bonus dispatch from Eli Sherman: “Six of Gov. Dan McKee’s 21 current cabinet members aren’t permanent picks. A seventh – Liz Tanner – still needs to be confirmed by the Senate, as she was shifted from the Department of Business Regulation to Commerce this week. And Nicholas Ucci, who runs the Office of Energy Resources, is stepping down at the end of the month. Turnover and vacancies are common inside an administration so close to a gubernatorial election, as there’s no guarantee the boss will still be around in another six months. But some of the jobs have gone unfilled for months and even years, including the head of the state’s child welfare agency, where the last director, Trista Piccola, left in 2019. McKee spokesperson Alana O’Hare this week underscored that the administration is working to fill the vacancies with strong and qualified permanent candidates, especially in the fields of health and human services. She also argued the governor ‘moved quickly to put together short-term transition teams’ at the Department of Human Services – which has lacked a permanent leader for more than a year – and the Department of Health, which is losing its interim director Dr. James McDonald. But Gary Sasse, who led the Department of Administration under Governor Carcieri, argues the lack of permanent leadership threatens the credibility of state agencies. He also believes McKee may have missed his moment to put his own people into place earlier, saying, ‘Where they dropped the ball would have been the opportunity to recruit in the first 90 to 100 days of his administration.’”

14. Rep. Carlos Tobon never showed up to the House again after our Target 12 report.

15. Eye on Congress … Jack Reed spent much of the week in Europe, meeting with the leaders of NATO nations as well as military officers and diplomats … Sheldon Whitehouse put in a bill to allow refinancing of students loans at 0% (and also tested positive for COVID) … David Cicilline helped introduce a Transgender Bill of RightsJim Langevin said he plans to campaign with Seth Magaziner now that he’s made his endorsement.

16. People on the move … Brian Hodge is joining AG Neronha’s office as communications director on Tuesday; he was previously at Commerce RI … Emily Howe is the new executive director of the R.I. Democratic Party following Kate Coyne McCoy’s unexpected resignation last weekend … longtime NEARI President Larry Purtill is stepping down as of Dec. 30, following NEARI’s Bob Walsh into retirement.

17. Woodward and Bernstein on the parallels they see between Watergate and Jan. 6.

18. Pecorino Romano, the best Italian cheese, finally gets the respect it deserves.

19. With the Bristol Fourth of July Parade coming up Monday, Mike Montecalvo and John Villella offer a touching Street Stories about a prominent father-daughter pair in town, PR pro Cara Cromwell and former state Rep. Chuck Millard.

20. Happy Independence Day! You can find our WPRI.com roundup of Fourth festivities here.

21. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers — Speaker Shekarchi. Watch Sunday at 5:30 a.m. on WPRI 12 or 10 a.m. on Fox Providence, or listen on the radio Sundays 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.

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