1. If anyone was shocked by Allan Fung’s lead in our new 12 News/Roger Williams University poll, they haven’t been paying enough attention. Set aside the fact that Fung held the exact same 6-point lead over Seth Magaziner in the only other public poll of the race, released back in June; just look at the behavior of the two campaigns and their allies. House Republicans’ super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, wouldn’t be spending $1 million in a blue state like Rhode Island if they didn’t have private polling data showing a path to victory for Fung. And Magaziner’s campaign wouldn’t be making arguments to donors about how they plan to close the gap — or receiving over $1.3 million worth of air support from House Democrats’ super PAC — if they didn’t fear the GOP flipping the seat. “The next four weeks are going to be crucial,” our pollster Joe Fleming said on this week’s Newsmakers. As the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman noted, the question now is whether Fung can build his support past his current level of roughly 46% — something he was unable to do in his two prior runs for high office. With Democrats needing to win 24 of 30 toss-up House seats nationwide to hold onto the majority, the party can’t afford to give away a seat in deep-blue New England — which means they’re likely to throw everything they’ve got at Fung over the next few weeks. But the former Cranston mayor has also become one of House GOP leaders’ most highly touted recruits, so they won’t be quick to give up their Rhode Island hopes.
2. The new 12 News/RWU poll finds one in four Democrats crossing party lines to support Allan Fung over Seth Magaziner — a sign of strength for Fung, but also an opportunity for Magaziner if he can win back some of his pro-Fung copartisans. With that in mind, the Magaziner campaign is ramping up its emphasis on maintaining Social Security and Medicare as is, historically a potent message for Democrats in Rhode Island. That included a news conference this week where Magaziner was endorsed by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and this new TV ad on the topic which goes on the air next week. (Despite what Steny Hoyer says, Magaziner continues doing his best to brand Fung as “extreme.”) Fung zeroed in on a specific policy area this week, too — in his case high energy costs, touting his proposals for lowering gas prices and utility bills in a new TV ad filmed at Twin Oaks. Fung also issued a series of news releases criticizing Magaziner over his support from the League of Conservation Voters and his opposition to the Keystone pipeline. Voters will soon get a chance to see Fung and Magaziner face off, with the pair scheduled to meet for their first TV debate Oct. 18 live at 7 p.m. on WPRI 12. They have also agreed to a second TV debate on Nov. 3 as well as two radio debates (Oct. 17 and Oct. 28).
3. The high profile of the 2nd District race has put Jim Langevin under the microscope in a way he may not have expected when he made his surprise retirement announcement last January. Langevin has already faced questions about why he hasn’t paid his full DCCC dues despite sitting on $700,000 in campaign cash and being the reason the party committee is spending money in a blue district. Now he is also feeling the heat over his investing activities after our Target 12 investigation Monday night revealed Langevin executed more than $1 million in stock trades during just the first eight months of this year — and frequently speculated on the shares of tech firms despite serving as chairman of a cybersecurity committee. Langevin has defended his behavior and pledged to comply with a ban on congressional stock trading if one becomes law before he leaves office. But the issue was thrust into the spotlight by the Democrat Langevin has endorsed to succeed him, Seth Magaziner; his campaign has seen the same polling that others have, showing voters don’t want their lawmakers trading stocks. Despite airing a TV ad critical of the practice, however, Magaziner repeatedly declined to criticize Langevin for his trades in response to questions over the past week. Our political analyst Joe Fleming argued that was a missed opportunity for Magaziner to show he is willing to stand up on principle even if it involves criticizing one of his political allies. Magaziner’s campaign points out Allan Fung has also been unwilling to criticize Langevin’s trading; Fung’s team counters that Magaziner was the one who made the subject a key election issue.
4. The race for governor was the top draw in Rhode Island politics just a month ago, but that contest has now ceded center stage to the fight for the 2nd District. Our new 12 News/RWU poll helps demonstrate why: the survey shows Democratic incumbent Dan McKee with a healthy 13-point lead over GOP challenger Ashley Kalus, who remains unknown to one in three voters and has a lower favorable rating than McKee among those who do know her. Kalus spokesperson Matt Hanrahan accentuated the positive in response to the poll, pointing out that McKee is below 50% and Kalus has room to grow her current lead among both independents and Republicans. McKee’s advisers don’t necessarily disagree — they continue to see the race as competitive, particularly when Kalus has shown the ability and willingness to spend massive amounts of money bringing down the governor’s numbers. With early voting now less than two weeks away, McKee is bringing back his secret weapon — Willa McKee, his nonagenarian mother — in a fresh TV ad that will begin airing next week. A big moment in the race will come Tuesday night, when McKee and Kalus square off face to face in their first TV debate live at 7 p.m. on WPRI 12. Tune in!
5. It was only nine months ago that Dan McKee and Seth Magaziner were less-than-friendly rivals battling for the governor’s office. Now they’re sharing the top of the Democratic ticket, with both needing to boost turnout in the region of Rhode Island where their party is weakest. To that end, the Rhode Island Democratic Party told me Friday that McKee and Magaziner have joined forces to create “one coordinated get-out-the-vote operation for the November election.” The coordinated campaign is a biennial undertaking for state Democrats (and can be a source of friction between rival Democratic camps depending on the personalities). With no U.S. Senate race on the ballot this midterm year, it’s up to McKee and Magaziner to lead the charge and the fundraising. Party leaders say they’ve raised over $600,000 so far to fund the coordinated campaign, and have hired Providence native Josh Rosenbaum to oversee 16 staffers contacting voters. “The coordinated campaign is rallying Democrats around Governor McKee and General Treasurer Magaziner’s shared vision,” party executive director Emily Howe tells me. That could come as a relief to some nervous Democrats who fear their ticket isn’t generating enough enthusiasm among voters, particularly in the 2nd District, where Republicans are fired up about the chance to win a Rhode Island congressional seat for the first time since 1992. Magaziner’s weakness in the western communities isn’t an outlier, either: the 12 News/RWU poll shows McKee running only 6 points ahead of Ashley Kalus in the 2nd District, and Joe Biden only up 4 points over Donald Trump in a potential 2024 rematch there.
6. Eli Sherman has all our poll results — including crosstabs — nicely laid out here. And we’ll get another look at all the races on Tuesday, when The Boston Globe and Suffolk University release their own fresh poll of Rhode Island voters.
7. When Rhode Island’s largest public employees union, AFSCME Council 94, came out with its election endorsements on Friday, the list included a surprise: the union is backing Republican James Lathrop for general treasurer over Democrat James Diossa. It’s the first time Council 94 has backed a Republican for statewide or federal office since 2014, when the union supported Catherine Taylor over Dan McKee for lieutenant governor. (The union did endorse McKee this time around.) Longtime Council 94 leader Mike Downey told me Friday night the endorsement is both pro-Lathrop and anti-Diossa, saying the GOP nominee made a strong positive impression during a recent AFL-CIO event and in news interviews. He also said he likes the fact that Lathrop is an actual finance professional as a CPA, and the fact that he harbors no bigger political ambitions. “In my 40 years [with Council 94], I’ve never seen the treasurer just want to be treasurer,” Downey said. “He claims he doesn’t want to be governor, or a congressman, or commerce secretary. He wants to be treasurer.” In addition, Downey said Council 94 leaders are wary of Diossa based on his time as mayor of Central Falls. “He was no friend of any of the pensioners or those who contribute in Central Falls,” Downey said. “He really doesn’t have a great track record with pensions.” WPRI 12 will host a televised debate between Lathrop and Diossa during a special taping of Newsmakers on Nov. 3.
8. Democratic nominee for secretary of state Gregg Amore is going on TV with a memorable commercial, playing on the old Dean Martin hit that includes his surname. Amore is seen as a heavy favorite against GOP nominee Pat Cortellessa, and a potential candidate for higher office someday, too. Funnily enough, though, Amore’s ad might also be giving an inadvertent boost to a Republican candidate: Anthony Amore, the GOP nominee for Massachusetts state auditor. The Massachusetts Amore team was elated to see the Rhode Island Amore team’s TV spot, knowing it will be airing in Southeastern Massachusetts and therefore at least some Bay State voters may pick the Republican auditor candidate because they remember the Rhode Islander’s ad. Anthony Amore could use the help. A moderate strongly backed by Charlie Baker, he is generally viewed as the Massachusetts Republican with the best shot — indeed, perhaps the only one with any shot — to actually win this year.
9. A sobering assessment from Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, who thinks the risk of a nuclear exchange have risen materially as Russia suffers more setbacks in Ukraine. “This is not a border squabble between two small countries,” Reed told reporters Friday, adding, “We’re in a serious confrontation and there could be serious consequences, and we’re working every day to minimize those potentials.”
10. Jim Langevin is being honored in various quarters as he wraps up his two decades in Congress. On Thursday, Langevin received the National Defense University Foundation President’s Award for Significant Contributions to National Security, which organizers said came in recognition for “his longstanding leadership on cyber and professional military education.” Separately, former Langevin chief of staff Seth Klaiman — who now holds the same position at Treasury for Seth Magaziner — is soliciting donors to underwrite an event honoring Langevin that will be held at the Crowne Plaza on Nov. 10, two days after the election. The money will pay for the event itself as well as a contribution to the United Way, per an email currently in circulation.
11. Steph Machado is a true beat reporter, which means she sat through multiple Columbus Day-themed musical numbers at the Providence City Council on Thursday night and thus was on watch when council leaders suddenly suspended their rules to propose a huge new 20-year tax break for the Providence Place mall. And it turns out Mayor Elorza is among those who hadn’t been looped into the negotiations. Steph has the full details in this story.
12. Kudos to former Providence Journal executive editor Karen Bordeleau, who is stepping down next month after four years as president of the New England First Amendment Coalition. NEFAC chief Justin Silverman credits Karen with increasing NEFAC’s programming, ramping up its advocacy and putting the group on a stable financial footing. The organization has a powerhouse board — luminaries in its leadership include Tim White, Ed Fitzpatrick, Amanda Milkovits, Mike Stanton, Shirley Leung and Topher Hamblett — and has become a vital voice for press freedom in the region. Karen is handing over the reins at NEFAC to veteran First Amendment lawyer Gregory Sullivan.
13. Christopher Caldwell argues the expansion of sports gambling is a “bad bet.”
14. Mike Grunwald takes a tough look at whether the Florida lifestyle is sustainable.
15. This will spark some heated debate: Pitchfork picks the 250 best songs of the ’90s.
16. Kim Kalunian is out with her annual list of the best Halloween displays in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. Fun for the whole family — and free!
17. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers — a political roundtable breaks down the new 12 News/RWU poll. 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 (email@example.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
An earlier version of this article misstated the environmental group supporting Seth Magaziner.