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Negative mailer deems John Connolly ‘son of privilege’

The gloves came off in the Boston mayor’s race this weekend, as an outside group spending money on behalf of state Representative Martin J. Walsh sent out a mailer this weekend blasting city councilor John R. Connolly’s upbringing and career path.

The mailer, which was paid for by Working America and was provided to the Globe by the Connolly campaign, shows photos of both men and asks “Which candidate has the drive and vision to lead us forward?”

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The literature then highlights many of Walsh’s biographical talking points — that his parents were immigrants, that he put himself through college, and that he has a long career in the State House — and slams Connolly, calling him a “son of privilege” and a “privileged corporate lawyer.”

Walsh’s campaign did not authorize or distribute the flier, and the candidate later condemned it. But some Walsh supporters and surrogates have attempted to make the differences in the candidates’ socioeconomic backgrounds and upbringing a theme in the race.

“The people of Boston deserve better than this,” Connolly said in a statement. “I call on Representative Walsh and these outside special interest groups to stop the negative campaigning and personal attacks and to stop distracting from the issues that are truly important to the people of Boston.”

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The mailer was paid for and distributed by Working America, the political organizing arm of the AFL-CIO, which has spent more than $520,000 on behalf of Walsh’s candidacy — part of the more than $1 million that has been spent on his behalf by outside groups.

A spokeswoman for Working America did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.

According to campaign finance law and the Citizen’s United decision by the Supreme Court, outside groups such as Working America are free to spend as much money as they want on behalf of a political candidate as long as there is no coordination between the outside group and the campaign.

Such groups are often behind attack ads and negative literature, a setup in which negative information or implications are spread without candidates ever having to directly criticize their opponents.

While the mailer is the first negative piece of campaign literature, it is not the first time that Connolly has come under fire from outside groups.

American Working Families, a Virginia-based group that supports Walsh, has frequently taken to social media to attack Connolly, while the Boston Teacher’s Union — which has not endorsed either candidate but has a long history of clashes with the city councilor — has also used social media to disparage Connolly, tweeting in September: “If Red Sox lose tonight, John Connolly will blame the teachers’ union.”

On Saturday, Connolly lashed out at the tactics used by some of Walsh’s supporters.

“Representative Walsh said that he would run a positive race,” Connolly said in a statement. “He said that negative campaigning does not have a place in politics, and yet the special interests funding his campaign are distributing negative flyers filled with personal attacks.”

After Connolly slammed the mailer, Walsh released a statement condemning the mailer and asking outside groups that support him not to engage in personal attacks.

“This mailer, and the attacks on my opponent’s family, are out of bounds. John is my friend and there is no place in this campaign for personal attacks like this,” Walsh said in a statement released late Saturday afternoon.

“To those responsible for this mailing and anyone thinking about doing anything like it, my message is clear: Stop, don’t do it, don’t even think about it. The people of Boston deserve better.”

Wesley Lowery can be reached at wesley.lowery@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @WesleyLowery.
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