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. Did Ashley Kalus do enough this week to change the dynamics in a race she’s trailed by double-digits? That’s the big question following back-to-back debates pitting the Republican nominee for governor against Democratic incumbent Dan McKee, a TV clash Tuesday night here on WPRI 12 and a radio bout two days later hosted by Public’s Radio and The Providence Journal. Kalus lived up to her branding as a “fighter,” pummeling McKee both times on issues ranging from slow RICAS scores and the FBI ILO investigation to RIPTA’s woes and cabinet raises. McKee defended his record while casting Kalus as a Republican carpetbagger whose candidacy is “retaliation” over a lost state contract. If Kalus were running for governor of Western Rhode Island, the race would be a tossup: the WPRI/RWU and Globe/Suffolk polls both showed McKee with only a slim lead in the 2nd Congressional District. But the governor is ahead by as much as 20 points in the eastern communities of the 1st District, a region that includes his geographic base in the Blackstone Valley as well as increasingly Democratic towns along the East Bay. The McKee team thinks Kalus’s tenuous ties to Rhode Island are disqualifying, and are trying to land a knockout punch with a new 60-second ad mocking her as an out-of-towner. (Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki even noticed it.) But the Kalus team is insistent that she has enough time and money to close the gap with McKee, and they plan to stay on the offensive. One challenge for Kalus: there are no more debates scheduled until Nov. 3, just five days before Election Day.

2. Governor McKee insisted during our debate Tuesday night that Ashley Kalus is wrong to allege he is withholding this year’s RICAS standardized test scores until after the election, saying, “I do not have the scores.” He also suggested his administration’s slow release of the results this year has something to do with the fact that the test administrator is processing MCAS scores for Massachusetts first. But my colleagues Steph Machado and Tolly Taylor decided to do a fact check on Friday — and learned the test administrator has already sent the RICAS scores to Rhode Island. Kalus issued a blistering statement saying McKee had lied to Rhode Islanders on live TV; McKee’s office now argues the governor was only saying he did not “personally” have the scores in his possession. Read the full story here.

3. With less than a month to go before the election, it’s finally sunk in locally and nationally that Republicans have a real shot at winning Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District for the first time since 1988. Three polls released in quick succession have all shown Allan Fung leading Democrat Seth Magaziner: 46%-40% in the WPRI/RWU poll, 45%-37% in the Globe/Suffolk poll, and 43%-40% in Magaziner’s own internal poll. House GOP leaders from Kevin McCarthy on down are gunning for the seat, with their main super PAC — the Congressional Leadership Fund — doubling its spending on the race to $2 million this week. Yet the polls remain too close, and the 2nd District too purple, to write Magaziner off yet. Right now Fung is hovering slightly above 42% of the vote that Donald Trump received in the 2nd District two years ago, while Magaziner is falling far short of Joe Biden’s 56%. That’s a problem for Magaziner, but also an opportunity — there are clearly still plenty of Biden voters who aren’t backing Magaziner or Fung at this point. The challenge for the Democrat’s campaign is getting those voters on board, or even convincing them to vote at all, since turnout usually slumps in a midterm compared with a presidential year. All that means the stakes are high for both men when they meet for their first televised debate Tuesday at 7 p.m. on WPRI 12 live from the Providence Performing Arts Center. Our debate will be the second meeting for the pair in the space of 24 hours, following a radio debate the night before hosted by Public’s Radio and The Journal.

4. One Democrat who’s become fully engaged for the fight for the 2nd District has direct experience winning the seat against a strong Republican nominee: Jack Reed, who entered Congress after defeating Trudy Coxe in the 2nd District in 1990. That race looks easy in retrospect — Reed won 59% to 41% — but he wasn’t a strong favorite at the time; in fact, Reed didn’t even lead in the polls that year until a WPRI 12 survey that came out Oct. 25. Reed told me Friday night he remembers that 1990 race’s first debate as a pivotal moment in the campaign for him — and he thinks the same will be true for Magaziner. “He’s really got to be authoritative, forceful and convincing in the debate,” Reed said. “And I think he’s got the ability to do that. I think he will.” Reed has been getting more heavily involved in the effort to retain his old seat for his party, raising significant sums to bolster Magaziner and hitting the campaign trail with the candidate. While the low-key senator isn’t generally viewed as a partisan brawler, he argues his engagement should be no surprise. “When there’s a competitive race, I’m in there,” Reed said. One of the unanswered questions: will Reed cut a TV ad for Magaziner? He did commercials for Sheldon Whitehouse in 2006 and Gina Raimondo in 2014, trying to expand the halo of his own high approval rating over their heads, too. Reed wouldn’t tell me Friday if he’s taping a spot, but did say he’s committed to doing “what’s most helpful” to Magaziner.

5. Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch filed an informative profile Thursday of the two 2nd District candidates, eliciting some new information from both Allan Fung and Seth Magaziner, particularly on foreign policy. Both candidates support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and both pledged continued support for the U.S. alliance with Israel. Fung said he opposes President Biden’s efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, while Magaziner said he supports the idea but wants a “stronger version” than President Obama’s. The pair also spoke about their backgrounds. Fung said he is proud to continue “breaking barriers” and being someone who “hopefully opens the door for the next generation of Asian American elected officials.” Magaziner, whose father is Jewish and whose mother is Catholic, remembered “being called anti-Jewish slurs from a very young age.” He also said, “Certainly, ethnically, I identify as Jewish. Religiously, I tend to keep that private.”

6. Tuesday is publication day for Senator Whitehouse’s new book, “The Scheme: How the Right Wing Used Dark Money to Capture the Supreme Court.” Nesi’s Notes obtained an advance copy of the book, in which Whitehouse gives a full-length treatment to his long-stated arguments that the nation’s highest court has been captured by right-wing interests. He compares the effort to “covert opts” run by intelligence agencies (as well as, in his view, fossil fuel companies with regards to climate change). “Both operations secretly control things, hide their identities, and can lie with impunity,” Whitehouse writes. “Staying covert often means evading the laws that require financial transparency and disclosure — laws that are wildly popular across the American political spectrum. An elected official who wants to stay in office long can’t very well repeal those laws. But an unelected, unaccountable set of Supreme Court justices can. In fact, they already have.”

7. If you want evidence that Senator Whitehouse’s crusade against conservative legal elites has his adversaries’ attention, look no further than last week’s New York Times exposé about the activities of Whitehouse bête noire Leonard Leo, a leader of the Federalist Society. Detailing the multiple organizations Leo has created to advance his agenda, The Times’ Ken Vogel writes: “Mr. Leo’s network has not been shy about taking on critics in Washington, like Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, who has repeatedly spotlighted him in speeches, including one last month in which he described Mr. Leo as ‘the little spider that you find at the center of the dark money web.'” Whitehouse also recently received some vindication from a lengthy Law360 investigation into the FBI’s apparently lackluster examination of sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The legal news outlet reports that after four years, “the investigation remains shrouded in secrecy,” adding: “Questions linger about what resources were allocated to the probe, how long tips sat without being reviewed by FBI staff, and whether agents could expand its scope in light of credible allegations.”

8. Tough Axios piece on one of David Cicilline’s top policy priorities for the 117th Congress: “Democrats talked a big game about reining in Big Tech, but after nearly two years of controlling the agenda in Washington, they’ve got little to show for it.”

9. One of the downballot races that has gotten relatively little attention is the challenge to Democratic Attorney General Peter Neronha by Republican Chas Calenda. While Neronha is the favorite, Calenda has been making a sustained case for a different approach by the state’s top prosecutor. “I think the partisanship that’s going on in the current administration has been a detriment to our criminal justice system and the office of the attorney general,” Calenda told our Kayla Fish on 12 News at 4 this week. “It’s our chief law-enforcement officer here in Rhode Island, and we’ve seen a very partisan administration as far as the priorities they are pursuing and going forward, and I’d like to change that.” Neronha appeared on the same program with Kim Kalunian back on Sept. 20, when he pushed back at Calenda’s critique.

10. Now here’s something you don’t see every day. East Bay Newspapers and The League of Women Voters hosted a forum Thursday night for Senate District 11, the seat being vacated by Portsmouth Democrat Jim Seveney. It featured three of the four candidates: independent Andrew Kelly, Republican Ken Mendonça, and Democrat Linda Ujifusa. Three minutes into the forum, while giving an opening statement, Kelly announced he was dropping out of the race — and endorsing Ujifusa. The look on her face as Kelly spoke suggests Ujifusa was as surprised as everyone else.

11. The New York Times took a look at Rhode Island’s decision to become the first state to legalize supervised drug consumption sites.

12. The offshore wind industry got its start in Rhode Island with the Block Island demonstration project, and it’s now growing by leaps and bounds. That expansion will be on display next week in Providence, when the American Clean Power Association will hold its Offshore WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition at the Rhode Island Convention Center. Governor McKee, Senator Reed and Senator Whitehouse all plan to speak to the two-day gathering. Ahead of the event, McKee announced Friday that Rhode Island Energy has begun soliciting bids for another 600 to 1,000 megawatts of offshore wind. The procurement stems from a law passed this past General Assembly session by Sen. Dawn Euer and Rep. Art Handy.

13. A reminder from our Providence reporter Steph Machado: Monday could be your last chance to weigh in on the proposed city tax breaks for the “Superman” building. The public hearing on the deal is being held at 5 p.m. at City Hall, and the Finance Committee may vote on the tax stabilization agreement immediately afterwards. (The agreement will still have to be approved by the full City Council, but those meetings don’t allow public comment.) The vacant skyscraper, which is being developed into apartments, would get a roughly $29 million discount on their taxes over 30 years if the agreement is approved.

14. Condolences to the family and friends of Westerly broadcaster Christopher DiPaola, who has died too young at age 49. The Globe’s Brian Amaral has a great obituary for DiPaola here.

15. This is fun: a collection of classic Life magazine photos from the campaign trail.

16. A new documentary looks at, of all things, the old kids’ TV show “Barney.”

17. Did you know one of the best-selling new jazz albums of 2022 — “Lifeline” by John Stein — was released by a record label based outside New Bedford?

18. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers — a political roundtable breaks down this week’s WPRI 12 gubernatorial debate between Dan McKee and Ashley Kalus. 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 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