Updated 2:05 p.m. with Bowser campaign comment

D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser fought her way to the Democratic mayoral nomination in part by promising to focus on the wards east of the Anacostia River like no mayor before — for instance, appointing a deputy mayor to focus on those historically neglected neighborhoods.

But mayoral rival and fellow council member David A. Catania has a different message for east-of-the-river residents — saying Bowser (D-Ward 4) is too closely tied to former mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who grew deeply unpopular there during his single term in office, and that Catania (I-At Large) has the more substantive record in wards 7 and 8.

The front of a flier recently distributed by the Catania campaign at east-of-the-river events shows a woman resembling Bowser from behind, with marionette-like strings attached to her limbs. That image is accompanied by excerpts from an April Washington Post story on the significant overlap between the Fenty and Bowser camps and the headline, “WHO IS PULLING MURIEL BOWSER’S STRINGS?”

Ben Young, Catania’s campaign manager, said the literature has been distributed at events east of the Anacostia — the back includes the line “There is no record that Muriel Bowser cares about you,” and highlights the at-large council member’s efforts on health care and education in wards 7 and 8. But Young said the Fenty imagery could be used in other upcoming campaign pieces targeted at other audiences.

“It is intended to showcase what everyone already knows: Which is she’s very managed and scripted by the same people,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s not the A team, it’s the B team. … This is not Dan Tangherlini and Neil Albert” — a reference to Fenty’s well-regarded city administrators.

Bo Shuff, Bowser’s campaign manager, said, “David Catania’s going to run a campaign. I don’t think anyone’s should be surprised about that.”

The irony of this line of attack is that Catania was — like Bowser — one of Fenty’s most reliable council allies during his mayoral term. And in many other parts of the city where Catania is hoping to do well, an association with Fenty is not necessarily viewed as a bad thing.

Young rejected any contradiction, saying Catania’s “always been his own person. … No one has ever questioned that.”

Aaron C. Davis contributed to this report.