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The sparring among the candidates for Boston mayor intensified this morning, as City Councilor Andrea Campbell asked Acting Mayor Kim Janey to disavow the first negative ad of the race — the ad by an independent super PAC that tars Campbell for associating with charter school proponents.

The Hospitality Workers Independent Expenditure PAC began airing a radio ad that claims Campbell’s campaign “is supported by special interests that want to take money from our schools and give it to other schools that discriminate against kids with special needs.”

“Special interests vs. kids with special needs. Andrea Campbell is on the wrong side,” the ad by the pro-Janey group says.

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The ad refers to the pro-Campbell political action committee Better Boston, whose top donors have also funded state and national campaigns for expanding charter schools.

But rather than disavow the ad, Janey campaign manager Kirby Chandler blasted Campbell further with a statement: “Andrea Campbell’s entire campaign is based on negative political attacks on Mayor Janey, so it’s the height of hypocrisy for her to complain about an outside group providing voters with information about her. Instead of attacking hotel workers for expressing their political views, Campbell should condemn the dark-money, right-wing millionaires who want to privatize our public schools and have poured millions of dollars into TV ads supporting Campbell’s campaign.”

Campbell has emerged as a frequent public critic of Janey, who assumed the role of acting mayor in March, after the departure of former mayor Martin J. Walsh.

But at a press conference with 20 supporters in Grove Hall on Tuesday, Campbell maintained that she has only spoken on the issues and tried to contrast her agenda.

“If you have nothing positive to say and can’t speak about your substance and can’t offer any substance you usually have to go to lies,” Campbell said. “And I tell folks, don’t pay attention and I know it’s not going to work in our community, especially the Black community. Because we’re smart and we know and we pay attention.”

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The two candidates, both Black, are competing in the Sept. 14 preliminary election with former city chief of economic development John Barros and City Councilors Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George. The top two finishers will face off in the Nov. 2 election.

A 2016 ballot question to expand charter schools was defeated, but education reform has proved a volatile issue that animates unions and defenders of public schools.

Campbell called the ad “fear mongering,” that spreads “lies about my position on education.”

Worse, she said, it “goes so far as to suggest that I don’t care about special needs students. Which I think is quite laughable because I’m the only candidate that actually has represented students with special needs in education cases, sometimes against Boston Public Schools, to ensure that they got the rights they were entitled to.”

Campbell began her legal career as an education advocate working with students.

Independent expenditure political action committees cannot coordinate any advertising or messaging with the candidate’s campaign. But they can influence the race — and often do the dirty work of negative advertising on behalf of candidates.

The radio ad was the first negative one in the race, and launched as a Globe poll showed Janey’s support dipping. While Wu has a strong lead in the contest, Campbell, Janey, and Essaibi George are in close contention for the second spot, the poll found. Janey, who is being treated as an incumbent in the race though she has been the acting mayor only for a few months, has been the most frequent target of criticism.

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Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.