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farah stockman

Where was Mr. Nice Guy?

Martin Walsh and John Connolly met in a debate one week before the mayoral election.

Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

Martin Walsh and John Connolly met in a debate one week before the mayoral election.

Marty Walsh is a very good man, and a very likable man. But he didn’t come off that way last night.

He declined to say anything positive about his rival when offered the chance. He threw around John Connolly’s profession — “lawyer” — as though it were a dirty word. “We don’t need another lawyer in City Hall,” he declared.

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Later, at a particularly tense point in the debate, when Connolly asked why Walsh hadn’t held a public hearing during his two years as chair of the House Ethics Committee, Walsh defended himself with the trusty “L” word.

“By law I’m prohibited from talking” about most committee matters, he said. “As a lawyer you should know that.”

Remember how Scott Brown constantly reminded Elizabeth Warren in debates that she was a professor?

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All this came on the heels of a blistering Walsh campaign press release that, in essence, asked voters to decide “whose side you are on.”

“Marty’s on the side of working men and women of Boston,” it read. “From recent reporting it appears that John Connolly is on the side of Republicans, corporate lawyers, and Wall Street hedge fund millionaires and billionaires.”

You can’t put out that press release and then claim that you are against negative campaigning. You can’t frame the race as laborers versus lawyers and then claim you want to build “one Boston.” Yet Walsh went on to press Connolly to promise that he won’t run negative ads. With a straight face.

To be sure, Connolly got in a few jabs of his own. He broadcast Walsh’s salary as head of a group of unions last year: $175,000. But he didn’t point out that that’s nearly twice what Connolly earned himself, even though he’s the “L word,” supported by billionaires.

Walsh projected more confidence in this debate than he has in the previous two. But when faced with tough questions — such as whether he can stand up to unions — he just turned testy. That’s a side few of us have seen before. And one I suspect few want to see again.

Farah Stockman can be reached at fstockman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fstockman.
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