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(NECN: Alison King) - Ask John Connolly to talk about his mayoral race and he'll start with the Boston schools.
"I think our future begins with our schools. It connects to everything across this city. If we want safer neighborhoods, we need better schools. If we want a stronger economy, we need better schools," he says.
While all 12 of the candidates cite education as a priority, none have done more to make it their signature issue than Connolly, a native of Roslindale, whose father, Michael Connolly, served as Secretary of State from 1979 to 1994.
"I've had world class educational opportunities in my life. I'm really blessed. That's part of what drives me to make sure that every young person in Boston can get a great education," he says.
Armed with degrees from The Roxbury Latin School and Harvard University, Connolly took a volunteer job in New York City teaching at risk kids.
Connolly says, "I saw the power of a great school to change lives teaching there - then I came back to Boston and I taught students from every neighborhood of Boston."
Connolly went on to get a law degree from Boston College.
He worked for the law firm, Ropes and Gray - then started his own law firm, before winning an at-large city council seat in 2007.
Connolly recently hosted a Summit with Boston Business leaders where he talked about closing the city's equity gap, creating a middle market housing plan and how he'd push to get rid of the state's new so-called tech tax.
John Connolly was the first candidate to get into the Mayor's race back in February - the only candidate to do so before Mayor Tom Menino announced he would -not run- for re-election. And that extra couple of months on the campaign trail shows.
Connolly is prepared with thoughtful answers on a wide range of issues.
And he has made in-roads into every Boston neighborhood.
He came out on top of the one poll that was done on the race in July, but says he's running like he's number 12 knowing that almost half of all Boston voters are still undecided.
Connolly lives in West Roxbury with his wife, Meg, a clinical psychologist, and their three children.