BOSTON — The usual sting of Massachusetts politics was leavened with humor as pols poked fun at themselves and launched zingers at the annual South Boston Saint Patrick’s Day Breakfast yesterday.
“I was going to wear a big ‘Kiss me I’m Irish’ button today, but Lord only knows what the Herald would have said,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren told the crowd at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, referencing the tabloid’s coverage of her avowed Native American ancestry.
Irish ballads interspersed elected officials’ forays into stand-up comedy, and master of ceremonies and Boston City Councilor Bill Linehan bounded about the dais, singing and commenting on the material.
Rep. Dan Winslow (R-Norfolk) was the lone Republican contender in the special U.S. Senate race to attend the breakfast, and Winslow didn’t take the microphone, though the two Democratic challengers for Secretary of State John Kerry’s former seat did.
Both candidates have burnished their blue collar bonafides with accounts of the jobs they held before running for public office, and those backstories were fair game on Sunday.
“The Democratic election will be historic no matter who wins. Either I will be the first ironworker elected to the United States Senate,” Congressman Stephen Lynch said, pausing for applause before the punch-line. “Or Ed Markey will be the first ice cream truck driver. So we’ll either have a voice for working families or we’ll have a voice for Ben and Jerry’s.”
The dean of the Congressional delegation who was first elected to Congress in 1976, Markey had his own take on his and Lynch’s beginnings.
“I’m prepared to show my long-form birth certificate, proving that I was born in Congress,” Markey said. “And Steve and I are good friends. Steve and I are good friends. This is a really good race. And we’re really going to maintain our friendship out of it. He’s prepared as well. He’s got his long-form birth certificate saying that he was born with his workboots on, in a manger that he welded together himself. That’s Southie.”
Lynch, who hosted the breakfast when he was the state senator from South Boston, may have had a hometown advantage, though he had to bat first. Lynch was seated closer to the podium than Markey, who sat to the right of Boston City Council President Stephen Murphy, and Markey referenced Southie’s solid support of Lynch when he said his South Boston coordinator is “in a witness protection program at an undisclosed location.”
The breakfasts were previously hosted by former Senate President William Bulger, who lives in South Boston. Bulger’s brother, the notorious alleged killer and mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger, is heading toward a trial at the nearby Moakley Federal Courthouse. That particular fraternal relationship was not the subject of any dark humor at the Sunday breakfast.
After the ceremony, former Gov. Bill Weld told reporters that he had seen the former Senate president Saturday night.
“I was with Bill Bulger last night at the Clover Club at the Park Plaza in Boston,” Weld said. “It was great.”
Linehan exercised his vocal cords, singing along to Irish tunes, which gave Warren an opening to discuss another type of “singing.”
“I understand Bill wants more people to sing this year,” Warren said. “On Beacon Hill I understand that usually means going before a grand jury.”
Gov. Deval Patrick delivered a video message, which featured a cameo by Lt. Gov. Tim Murray in a racecar driver’s suit, and Senate President Therese Murray attended an event her district.
The video showed a fake press conference, where Patrick said that the new reality shows “Southie Rules” and “Wicked Single” were so bad he had declared a state of emergency and issued a driving ban.
“Did he say driving ban,” the lieutenant governor said, appearing on screen in his race suit.”