In a spirited in-person return to a tradition of bad jokes and back-slapping, top Massachusetts politicians gathered Sunday in South Boston for the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, sharing off-key singing and political jabs over eggs and pastries.
Held at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and hosted by Nick Collins, the state senator who represents South Boston, the event featured bagpipes, glad-handing, and the requisite jokes about Tom Brady’s retirement reversal. Elected officials and statewide candidates gathered in their finest green attire to poke fun at each other, some more humorously than others, and hearken back to moments light and heavy over the last few years.
Sunday’s event was a return to the in-person tradition after a two-year break. The 2020 breakfast was canceled, one of the first major events to be disrupted as the city confronted the early days of COVID-19. And the 2021 celebration was held online, giving rise to livestreamed appearances and hammy videos.
This week, it was great to be back in person, said Massachusetts Senate president Karen Spilka, to “laugh or at least cringe together.”
In her first appearance at the event as mayor of Boston, Michelle Wu alluded to her difficult first few months in office contending with inclement weather and labor disputes, laughing that she had endured “trial by snow, trial by fire...fighters union.”
“I’m getting used to dealing with problems that are expensive, disruptive, and white,” she joked. “I’m talking about snowflakes, snowflakes, snowstorms. . . snowflakes.”
Wu also made hay of the small group of anti-vaccine mandate protesters who routinely demonstrate outside her home first thing in the morning, saying she had woken up once again “to the sound of children throwing a tantrum.”
“Thankfully, Blaise and Cass usually sleep through it,” she joked, referring to her two young sons.
According to event organizers, a few of those protesters came to Sunday’s event and “falsely” identified themselves as volunteers in what event staff feared was an effort to disrupt the program. They were identified and removed, organizers said.
The city’s politics have shifted significantly since its power brokers last gathered for the event. Last year, Wu was just one of many candidates for mayor, and Marty Walsh had yet to be confirmed to President Joe Biden’s Cabinet. This year, the City Council that gathered on the green-decorated stage included a number of new faces, and the event played host to the cadre of hopefuls seeking statewide office in this year’s elections.
Both major Democratic candidates for governor, Attorney General Maura Healey and state Senator Sonia Chang-Dίaz, attended the event, sitting on opposite sides of the long table on the stage. Introducing Healey, Collins joked that she had a great deal in common with the Republican governor, Charlie Baker: She “went to Harvard, played basketball, and is a liberal Democrat.”
During her set, Healey alluded to the long time she took to announce whether she would run for governor, joking that she had put off her RSVP to the breakfast for months.
Then, when she learned that Baker would not be running again, she was “all in!” she said.
And there were plenty of jokes directed at the state’s departing leaders. Spilka handed Baker, who will not seek reelection when his term ends this year, a large inflated duck: “a lame duck.”
Baker was the butt of more jokes than he made, taking a somewhat sentimental approach for his last breakfast as governor. He alluded to the historic snowstorm that dominated his first winter in office, joking that it foreshadowed that “big parts of our seven, eight years in office are just going to suck.”
A number of speakers wondered jokingly whether Baker would change his mind the same way Brady did, a step the governor shows no signs of taking. The governor was serenaded with a mock cover of a Pink Floyd song, rewritten and performed by Collins to center on Baker’s COVID-19 restrictions. The spirited performance joined a more traditional program of Irish folk songs.
Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito was not immune from mocking, either. Why isn’t Polito running for governor, Collins questioned? She already got everybody in Worcester County a job, he cracked.