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Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Could it be magic?

Barry Manilow among donors in CD1 special election

by Nancy Lavin, Rhode Island Current

Left: Barry Manilow, shown in 2022 at the Clive Davis Gallery Ribbon Cutting at New York University in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images) Right: Nick Autiello, candidate for Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District . (Photo courtesy of Nick Autiello for Congress)

Mixed in among the familiar business moguls and political leaders who have donated to candidates in the Rhode Island 1st Congressional District race, one name stands out: Barry Manilow.

The 79-year-old soft rock superstar known for ’70s hits like “Copacabana” and “Mandy” donated $3,300 to Nicholas Autiello’s campaign, according to first-quarter fundraising reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Candidates who raised or spent more than $5,000 in the first quarter of the year had to submit reports by April 15. 

Autiello, a former top aide to then-Gov. Gina Raimondo, has been personal friends with Manilow and his husband Garry Kief for many years, according to an emailed statement from Autiello’s campaign. 

“Nick is humbled that LGBTQ leaders across the country see him as a compelling successor to David, especially at a time when the LGBTQ community is under increased attacks from the far right,” the email stated.

Both Manilow and Autiello are gay.

While Autiello’s campaign got a boost of star power, neither he, nor his competitors, are flush with cash. The top fundraiser, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, barely cleared the six-digit mark, while none of the candidates spent more than a couple thousand dollars, mostly on credit card processing fees. 

In fairness, the March 31 first-quarter fundraising deadline gave contenders a little over a month from when outgoing U.S. Rep. David Cicilline announced his departure plans to start building their war chests. Matos, the first candidate to officially enter the race, didn’t declare her candidacy until March 13.

Since then 14 candidates have filled out the field.

Many of the contenders are already in office now, meaning they enjoy name recognition and voter support, said Wendy Schiller, a political science professor at Brown University.

“In that sense, you don’t need as much money,” Schiller said. “It’s the candidates who aren’t holding elected office who need the money the most.” 

Four of the five contenders who had first-quarter financial reports are current elected officials: Matos, Autiello, Sen. Sandra Cano of Pawtucket; Providence City Councilman John Goncalves and Rep. Nathan Biah, of Providence. 

Matos and Cano lead fundraising

Matos was the top fundraiser, raising $106,782 for her campaign. Her donations, combined with a $20,000 personal loan also put her at the top of the heap for the most cash on hand: $123,988.12.

Cano was close behind, with $121,491.64 in her campaign coffers as of March 31. Two-thirds of her riches came from an $80,000 personal loan, with $42,640.22 in independent campaign contributions.

Autiello sat in a not-too-distant third, with $101,902 cash on-hand, reflecting a $11,900 personal loan combined with $92,420 in donations. 

Goncalves had $38,026.30 on hand, after raising $39,547.07 in donations. Biah raised $310, with $305.05 left at the quarter’s end.

As the election draws closer, dollars are expected to start pouring in, and being spent, including on advertising.  

Expect rising summer ad spend

Schiller said spending on TV and radio ads will ramp up in August (before the September primary) much like the 2022 gubernatorial primary and 2nd Congressional District race.

“That’s where money will come into play,” Schiller said. “Older people in Rhode Island still watch television ads and they are the ones who come out to vote.”

Social media campaigns and voter registration drives will also be crucial spending areas, especially for candidates with less local name recognition, Schiller said. 

Two candidates who entered the race after the end of the fundraising quarter, former Rep. Aaron Regunberg and prior White House staffer Gabe Amo, have released promotional videos on social media. 

Other candidates in the race as of Wednesday include Rep. Marvin Abney of Newport, Rep. Stephen Casey of Woonsocket, Sen. Ana Quezada of Providence, Jamestown businessman Don Carlson,  former secretary of state candidate Stephanie Beauté, Republican-turned-Democrat Allen Waters, and political newcomer Mickeda Barnes.

Candidates have until June 30 to enter the race.

The primary is set for Sept. 5, with a Nov. 7 general election. 



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