The last time a top Massachusetts politician was photographed in a helmet - Governor Michael Dukakis during his 1988 presidential campaign, trying to show he was tough on defense - it backfired.
This time it was different.
Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray’s grand entrance sporting a NASCAR helmet and racing jacket drew laughter and loud applause at Sunday’s Saint Patrick’s Day breakfast and political roast at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston.
Murray, a potential gubernatorial candidate, made headlines last fall when he crashed his state-owned car driving 108 miles per hour in the predawn hours, and later said he was out inspecting damage after a snowstorm.
“I was here at 5:30, but no one was here,’’ he told the hundreds who packed the convention center to dine on corned beef hash, scrambled eggs, and biting humor. “So I drove around looking for storm damage.’’
‘No one was here. So I drove around looking for storm damage.’
He also warned the crowd that he had to make it to another event in Holyoke in about 15 minutes, but not to worry - he had signed an executive order raising the state speed limit to 108 miles per hour.
Murray was the first of more than a dozen politicians over the course of 2 1/2 hours to take the microphone and crack self-effacing jokes to an audience clad in every imaginable hue of green.
In an election year, there was plenty of choice fodder.
Perhaps most anticipated were the remarks by rival candidates US Senator Scott Brown, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren.
But the two hardly shared a spot on the podium.
Brown was second on the morning’s lineup, speaking right after Murray and seated in prime view, next to the master of ceremonies, Senator Jack Hart, a Boston Democrat.
Warren, who sat in the second-tier seats on the podium behind Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, waited nearly two hours - and after Brown’s daughter, Ayla, sang “God Bless America’’ - for her turn at the microphone.
Warren, who was making her debut at the roast, acknowledged her Harvard professor credentials and Cambridge address, which have become frequent targets of Brown.
She told the crowd that she is still on a learning curve and has come to realize that a pickup truck - Brown’s mode of transportation and populist symbol that vaulted him to victory in 2010 - was an asset.
But a Cadillac, “not so much,’’ Warren said, referring to the fallout over former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s ad-libbing when he told Michigan voters his family owned several Detroit-made cars, including two Cadillacs.
Also, Warren said, she has learned that Brown’s ubiquitous everyman-style barn jacket, which received a lot of press in 2010, cost $600.
“Wow, here’s a guy who could use a consumer advocate,’’ quipped Warren, who established a consumer protection agency in the Obama administration.
During his time at the microphone, Brown told the crowd he almost didn’t make it to the event because his now-famous pickup truck has 230,000 miles on it.
“But Governor Romney was nice enough to get me one of his Cadillacs,’’ he said. “So, we’re all set.’’
Continuing in that vein, he shared a behind-the-scenes conversation he said he recently had with Warren. People think you are elitist, he said he told his rival in private.
That’s not true, she reportedly told him. And she put a wager on it, he said.
She said, “I’ll bet you a bottle of Dom Perignon’’ that it’s not true, he said.
Closing out the program was the day’s youngest speaker, Joseph P. Kennedy III, the 31-year-old grandson of Robert F. Kennedy.
He is running for Congress for the seat being vacated by Representative Barney Frank.
The copper-haired scion, who already had been the butt of several jokes about his youth, apologized for being late.
“My mom made me clean my room before I came,’’ he said.
He also confessed that it was intimidating standing up on the dais for the first time, and said he hoped that would clear up with time, “hopefully with the acne that’s still on my face.’’
Noting that trusted advisers recommended that he keep his remarks brief, he opted for a quick top 10 list of things he has experienced on the campaign trail.
Number 10 was a remark he heard while in Metro West: “Buddy, you must be lost, this is Hopkinton, not Hyannis,’’ he said, referring to the Kennedy’s family’s famous compound on the Cape.
Number four was his realization that President Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, had gotten a job at NBC.
“I hate it,’’ he said, “when people take advantage of their family’s name.’’
And number one?
In reference to the potential for confusion on the campaign trail: “Where’s the oil,’’ he said, a nod to his father’s heating oil nonprofit for low-income residents, Citizens Energy.