Fueled By Outside Money, Boston’s Mayoral Slugfest Gets Personal

Connolly, for his part, enjoys support from the two-toilet Irish  who live on the city’s leafier western side, along with school parents, black  ministers, and downtown professionals.

The divide between these coalitions owes more to identity politics  than policy. Many Connolly supporters distrust Walsh’s close union ties, and  fear he’d hand out platinum-plated contracts to cops and firefighters. Walsh  supporters, who see their candidate as a crusader for the poor and the working  class, have countered by painting Connolly as the lost Koch brother, a wealthy  interloper who can’t be trusted.

The notion of a class divide between the candidates is inaccurate,  but in the absence of many bright-line policy distinctions, it has become  pervasive. And it’s clearly wearing on the Connolly camp. Late last week,  Connolly’s wife broke down in tears at a campaign event while trying to disarm  her husband’s critics. “The character piece gets under my skin, but I try not to  let it,” Connolly says. He pauses, then adds, “I used to love Twitter, and now I  hate Twitter.”

Walsh, a die-hard Bruins fan, compares the race’s sudden nasty bent  to playoff hockey: The higher the stakes get, the more physical it gets. “Within  the last 10 days, it’s gotten very chippy,” he says. “Now it’s real. The winner  is the mayor of Boston.” In the race’s last days, Walsh says, “Every move  matters. Every word matters.”

The hardest hits haven’t come from inside Walsh’s campaign, though.  They’ve come from the super PACs that are flooding the Boston race with outside  money.

To date, unions and super PACs have made $3.6 million in  independent expenditures in the race — an enormous amount of money, given tight  Massachusetts campaign finance laws that cap individual campaign contributions  at $500. Since early August, when the spending began in earnest, outside groups  have outspent the combined Connolly and Walsh campaigns by more than one-third.  Recent mayoral races in Los Angeles and New York have also attracted heavy union  and super PAC spending, but both those cities are considerably larger than  Boston; on a per-capita basis, outside spending in Boston’s mayoral race is  twice what it was in Los Angeles, and six times the levels in New York.

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