Posters heralding the Greater Boston Labor Council’s support of Elizabeth Warren’s US Senate candidacy dominated a Park Plaza Hotel ballroom Monday, and upon arriving, so did she.
The Democratic candidate may have shared the stage with part of the state’s congressional delegation and Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston, but from the moment she stepped into the Imperial Ballroom, she was the focus of television cameras and the nearly 500 people who gathered for the annual Labor Day breakfast.
Most speakers were afforded a standing ovation when they finished; Warren brought the audience to its feet simply by being introduced.
Surrounded by reporters before she could make it to the main table, Warren said she wants to represent workers who are standing up to Republican proposals that could weaken union rights.
“I came to a breakfast like this because these are the people who helped build America’s middle class,” she said.
Warren was reprising last year’s visit to the Labor Day breakfast, when there was some grumbling among would-be Senate candidates because she was an invited speaker before officially announcing that she would attempt to unseat US Senator Scott Brown, a Republican from Wrentham.
This year, even though she has yet to go through an election day, Warren clearly was the featured speaker at a main table that included politicians who had been elected and reelected many times.
“When you’re in a room with her, people want to stand next to her,” Louis Mandarini, president of the labor council, said while introducing Warren.
She used the opportunity to call Brown, who was elected to fill the unexpired term of the late Edward M. Kennedy, “a guy who really let us down.”
Playing off Brown’s man-of-the-people persona, Warren said she cares less about the truck he drives or the barn coat he wears than “about how he votes.” She also took aim at Brown’s positioning himself as a Republican who works with Democrats on certain issues. Voters “need a senator they can count on all the time,” she said.
Brown’s press secretary, Alleigh Marré, issued a statement saying that “rather than distorting and misrepresenting Scott Brown’s pro-jobs, pro-worker record, she should be explaining the many contradictions in her own record.”
Warren is scheduled to speak at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., as is Menino.
“I’m headed to Charlotte after this breakfast,” the mayor said as he engaged in a call and response with the audience. “I’m just getting warmed up.”
Menino also alluded to Republican moves to restrict collective bargaining and said: “Boston is a union city, and we’re going to stay union.”
There was no shortage of fiery speeches and lines that drew sustained applause for labor leaders and for US Representatives William Keating and John Tierney, who all shared the main table with Menino and Warren.
The just-completed Republican National Convention provided material in different ways for the speakers, including Tierney, who said the Republicans offered “a second-class vision for a first-class America.”
Keating suggested that during the convention, the GOP decided it was better to show Clint Eastwood speaking to an empty chair than “to show Mitt Romney talking to an empty factory.”
Many speakers, Warren among them, worked the name of one Kennedy or another into their remarks. She recited a litany of issues the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy supported and said: “I want to go to Washington to fight for the things he fought for.”
Even Joseph Kennedy III, one of the Democratic candidates for the Fourth Congressional District seat that opened because of Barney Frank’s retirement, invoked a Kennedy.
In the last speech, Kennedy got one of his biggest responses by putting a spin on a famous line spoken by President John F. Kennedy, his great-uncle. The candidate said that as he watched the Republican National Convention last week, he imagined a line that Republican presidential nominee Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, might use in an inaugural address if he was elected:
“Ask not what your country can do for you, because now that I’m president, I’m going to make darned sure it can’t do anything.”