From abortion to gun laws to high-profile supporters: Unpacking the CD1 candidates’ claims

At this point in the election cycle, it’s hard to escape the mailers, television ads and text messages making hyperbolic claims about why you should support one candidate over another.

So, this week, Political Scene is fact-checking some of those claims, and unpacking statements that candidates for the 1st Congressional District have been making on the campaign trail.

At this point in the election cycle, it's hard to escape the mailers, television ads and text messages making hyperbolic claims about why you should support one candidate over another.

Amo says he worked with people in recovery; campaign points to high-profile names

“I’ve worked at the heights of government in Washington and Rhode Island and in those senior staff roles, I’ve worked with people who are in long-term recovery from substance-use disorders,” first-time candidate Gabe Amo said at a forum hosted by local addiction and recovery organizations.

Amo worked in Intergovernmental Affairs in the Obama and Biden administrations, and as director of public engagement and community affairs under former Gov. Gina Raimondo, according to his LinkedIn profile. And some rivals have suggested that he’s too eager to claim involvement in everything that those administrations did.

So in what way did he work with people who are in recovery from addiction? Spokesman Matt Rauschenbach responded, “When Gabe worked as a senior aide to former Governor Raimondo, he worked alongside two public servants who have publicly shared their experience being in long-term recovery, Providence Mayor Brett Smiley and Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Tom Coderre.”

“As well, as a senior aide at the White House, Gabe had the opportunity to work with former Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, who has shared his own experience with substance use disorder,” Rauschenbach added.

Cano takes credit for codifying Roe; says no woman ‘has ever represented us in Congress’

Sen. Sandra Cano “led the fight to codify Roe v. Wade to protect access to safe and legal abortion,” according to a mailer paid for by her campaign.

That might raise some eyebrows, given that Cano wasn’t the primary Senate sponsor of the Reproductive Privacy Act, the bill that the mailer is referencing.

Cano was one of more than a dozen senators who signed on as co-sponsors, so there’s no question that she supported the legislation. But did she really lead the fight? And don’t the advocates who lobbied for the bill’s passage deserve some of the credit?

“The effort to pass the Reproductive Privacy Act took leadership from so many people in different roles,” Cano’s campaign manager, Erich Haslehurst, wrote in an email. “There was no singular leader as everyone involved, rightfully, is referred to as someone who led the fight.”

Haslehurst noted that Cano’s first race, in 2018, was seen as critical for increasing the amount of support for the legislation in the Senate. Once elected, she became an “outspoken advocate,” he said.

“She was experiencing difficult decisions while pregnant with her first child, receiving threats and volatile messages for her support of abortion rights, and still spoke strongly in favor of the bill on the Senate floor during the debate in 2019,” Haslehurst wrote. “Sandra was a force in the Senate — working diligently with her colleagues to advocate for passage of this bill. As you may recall, this was not an easy task in the Senate.”

“It took several leaders to work out of the spotlight to make sure this got done to protect Rhode Islanders no matter what happened at the national level, and Sandra was one of them,” he added.

Cano has also taken some flak for one line in a television ad titled “Dear Ari.”

“No woman has ever represented us in Congress,” Cano tells her young daughter in the ad.

The campaign says that the ad is referring to Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District. But a viewer could easily come away with the impression that no woman has ever represented Rhode Island in Congress, period — which isn’t true. Claudine Schneider, a Republican, represented the 2nd Congressional District during the 1980s.

Goncalves leans on symbolic resolutions to hype up track record of passing legislation

Providence City Councilman John Goncalves says on his website that he’s “the lead sponsor and author of dozens of pieces of passed legislation in the City of Providence.”

At The Journal’s request, Goncalves’ congressional campaign produced a list of more than 50 pieces of passed legislation that list him as the lead sponsor. However, 46 were symbolic, non-binding resolutions.

The list included more than two dozen resolutions urging state lawmakers or Congress to pass certain bills, and establishing three ceremonial designations for certain streets.

Gonsalves also sponsored resolutions endorsing the AFL-CIO’s recommendation to make RIPTA buses free, supporting a ban on banning books in Providence public schools and libraries, recognizing May as Jewish American Heritage Month and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, honoring the life of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, requesting the reopening of public bathrooms in Kennedy Plaza, and recognizing Nov. 11 as Veterans Day, to name a few examples.

During his time on the council, Goncalves has also passed resolutions requesting that the city take certain actions, such as conducting a composting study and drafting an “Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Policy.” While that carries a certain amount of political weight, resolutions ultimately aren’t legally binding.

By contrast, city ordinances are legally enforceable mandates. Goncalves has passed six of those in total: adding certain East Side parcels to the historic overlay district, changing the zoning for a specific piece of property, requiring more notice when demolition permits are issued, establishing a “right to charge” law that prevents condominium associations from banning electric car chargers, exempting electric charging stations from the tangible tax, and banning discrimination based on African American hairstyles.

Matos mailer credits lieutenant governor with passing gun laws

Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos “led the fight to pass the strongest gun laws in state history,” claims a mailer paid for by CHC BOLD PAC, which goes on to say that Matos has a “track record” that includes banning high-capacity magazines and increasing the purchase age to 21.  

That’s a bit of a stretch, given that Matos has never served in the General Assembly and therefore wasn’t responsible for sponsoring those two pieces of legislation — and also wasn’t the one who signed them into law.

There’s no question that Matos has consistently expressed her support for stricter gun laws, including the two bills referenced in the mailer, which passed in 2022.

But her own website uses slightly more toned-down language, saying that she “helped pass a state ban on high-capacity magazines” and “successfully advocated to raise the legal age to purchase firearms and ammunition in Rhode Island from 18 to 21.”

CHC BOLD PAC, an arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, did not respond when asked for the basis for the mailer’s claims.

Evan England, Matos’ spokesman, emphasized that her campaign had “no involvement in the creation of the mailer or the choice of words used.”

However, he said, Matos “has been a steady and consistent champion for common-sense gun safety measures.”

He described the lieutenant governor as “a key voice for gun safety legislation that was enacted in 2022,” and pointed to a number of other occasions over the years where she called for stricter regulations, including a ban on assault weapons.

Regunberg claims to have taken on ‘corruption’ at State House

Former Rep. Aaron Regunberg “took on corruption,” a supporter declares in a campaign ad titled “Together.”

That claim provoked some head-scratching, since it’s extremely vague — and it’s not as though Regunberg is a prosecutor who went after the mob.

Asked what the ad was referencing, Regunberg’s campaign pointed to legislation that he introduced as a state representative, which would have banned lobbyists and political action committees from donating to members of the General Assembly during the legislative session.

The bill would also have reduced the maximum annual contribution from lobbyists from $1,000 to $100. It did not gain enough support to pass.

Regunberg’s campaign also cited his unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor in 2018, saying that he “openly called out the pay-to-play nature of corporate lobbying in RI.” As proof, the campaign pointed to a minute-long ad in which Regunberg railed against lobbyists’ influence at the State House, accusing them of making “backroom deals to protect their interests, not ours.”

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