More than $1.7M spent on broadcast ads in CD1 race

By: - August 25, 2023 4:37 pm

The latest ads aired by Sandra Cano, Aaron Regunberg, Gabe Amy, and Don Carlson. (Screenshots)

As primary day in Rhode Island nears, the airwaves war in the race to represent the 1st Congressional District is heating up — and getting costly.

As of Aug. 25, five Democratic candidates and three political action committees (PAC) have collectively spent $1.74 million on more than 6,000 advertisements across Rhode Island’s broadcast TV stations, according to filings with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Candidates paying for ads are former White House Aide Gabe Amo, Pawtucket State Sen. Sandra Cano, Jamestown renewable energy investor Don Carlson, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, and former Providence Rep. Aaron Regunberg. 

The biggest spender by far is Carlson, whose campaign purchased 1,879 30-second spots for a total of $387,152. Carlson, who gave his campaign a personal loan of $600,000, also has the distinction of being the biggest spender in the six weeks leading up to the primary, according to recent filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Matos, the previous leader in ad spending, saw her purchases decrease by $50,000, according to revised FCC order forms. Earlier in the month, Matos’ campaign reserved $279,634 worth of ad time, which is now at $228,224.

Brexton Isaacs, Matos’ campaign manager, said he is not aware of any ad pullbacks.

“We’re still at the same levels we’ve been at,” he said. “I’m fairly confident we have more points on TV than anybody else — we at least have more than Regunberg or Amo.”

According to the FCC filings, Amo is just behind Matos in ad spending with 886 ad spots for $228,176. Regunberg’s campaign spent $193,700.

Though filings note a decrease in spending by the Matos campaign, she’s getting the biggest boost in outside spending on TV ads.

BOLD PAC, the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, purchased 834 ad spots between Aug. 4 and 14 . The group endorsed Matos’ run in April.

EMILY’s List, which works to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, spent $220,356 on 421 spots that aired between Aug. 15 and Aug. 21. Filings were listed under the group’s independent expenditure arm, “Women Vote.”

The EMILY’s List ad supporting Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos in her bid for Congress. (Screenshot)

The group endorsed Matos in July. In her endorsement, EMILY’s List president  Laphonza Butler said in a statement that Matos “has been a champion for women, youth, and working families, and she has been a strong supporter of reproductive freedom throughout her time in elected office

“EMILY’s List has been proud to support Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos since her run for Providence City Council in 2010, and we have been thrilled with all she has accomplished for Rhode Islanders in the years since,” Butler said.

Also supporting Matos is Elect Democratic Women, a group formed in 2018 “with the purpose of electing more pro-choice Democratic women to Congress and higher office.” The PAC, which endorsed the lieutenant governor’s congressional bid in June, spent $138,080 on 252 ad spots that aired between Aug. 15 and 21.

Cano’s campaign still has the fewest ads among the candidates appearing on broadcast TV, with 136 spots for $49,660.

Ads from candidates will air through Sept. 5, the date of the primary.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.