Massachusetts politicians and guests gathered in a jam-packed union hall in South Boston Sunday morning for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast, with a cacophony of singing, quips, and self-deprecating jabs from the new governor.
The breakfast, which was held at the Ironworkers Local 7 Hall and hosted by state Senator Nick Collins, who represents South Boston, kicked off with a festive start, featuring live music and baskets of pastries. Some attendees sang along to Irish songs as they sat shoulder-to-shoulder and ate eggs, bacon, sausage, and potatoes. Others stood lining the perimeter of the room, packed into any open spot they could find.
The venue was much smaller than the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, where the event had been held in recent years. Servers maneuvered around throngs of attendees dressed festively in bright emerald, shamrock prints, and green boutonnieres. Senate President Karen Spilka had a lime-green streak in her hair.
They joined members of the state’s congressional delegation, the Legislature, and other notables who packed the stage, including Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Attorney General Andrea Campbell, Auditor Diana DiZoglio, Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll, Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden, and members of the Boston City Council.
In her first appearance at the event as governor, Maura Healey opened the breakfast by joking about the recorded greeting at Logan International Airport, a jab at the hiring crisis at the embattled MBTA.
“Here’s what I really wanted to say: Welcome to Logan Airport. Do you want to run the T?” said the governor, who has yet to hire a general manager of the MBTA.
She also joked about being asked, “What does the lieutenant governor do?”
“Frankly, I’ve been wondering myself,” she said, inviting Driscoll to the microphone.
Healey and Driscoll held up two jars full of dollar bills, joking that speakers will have to pay up if they reference the T — or basketball. The two, who were college basketball players, heavily cited basketball in TV ads, fund-raising emails, and campaign events during the gubernatorial election.
Spilka said she doesn’t follow the Royals, but that “they gave the Senate a great idea — no term limits for Senate president,” a reference to her chamber’s vote to extend her tenure indefinitely.
DiZoglio, a former senator herself, serenaded Spilka with a rendition of “Walking on Sunshine.” She recently announced an audit of the Legislature, casting it as a “closed-door operation” that often operates in the shadows.
“We’re walking on sunshine,” she sang. “The people want sunshine.”
They also joked about this past election cycle, when some races were relatively heated.
In Campbell’s speech, she roasted Wu, her former colleague on the Boston City Council, who endorsed her opponent, largely self-funded labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, in the Democratic primary.
“If you know one thing about Michelle, she likes free things. Between the free T rides and rent control grants, she really is concerned about the cost of things,” Campbell quipped. “That’s why we’re so so confused why she endorsed a billionaire self-funded candidate for AG. I’m still trying to figure that out.”
Wu laughed as did US Senator Elizabeth Warren, who also endorsed Liss-Riordan for attorney general.
As several dignitaries noted, the city’s politics have shifted significantly since its power brokers last gathered for the event.
Five out of the six constitutional officers are now women, and more women held the stage than men at the breakfast, which was noted in a few of the speeches.
Still, sexism persists, Wu joked in her remarks.
“For the men, this is their annual opportunity to tell a few bad jokes that no one will remember,” she said. “For the women, it’s our chance to tell a few bad jokes that will get taken totally out of context.”
In 2022, Healey was still one of several candidates for governor, and Wu had recently been elected mayor. Republican Charlie Baker was still in the corner office, and was the subject of jokes about his decision not to run for a third term.
At that breakfast, Spilka handed Baker a large inflated duck: “a lame duck.”
Baker, as well as former Boston mayor Marty Walsh, who recently left his post as US labor secretary for the NHL Player’s Association, received plenty of jabs for their new roles.
Neither Walsh nor Baker, who now leads the NCAA as its president, were in attendance at this year’s breakfast.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley joked that she’s learned a lot in the past year, including that “the best way to become a popular politician in Massachusetts is to actually stop being a politician and run a major national sports organization.”
Spilka joked about Baker’s lucrative new role, too.
“I guess that’s why he didn’t support the millionaires tax,” she said.
Republicans were not spared by the all-Democrat head table Sunday.
Wu joked that while St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated for driving the snakes out of Ireland and Evacuation Day is celebrated for driving the British out of America, Sunday should be declared “Jim Lyons Day,” named after the recently ousted state Republican Party chair.
“I propose Jim Lyons Day for his unparalleled contribution, helping us drive all the Republicans out of the State House,” she joked.
Spilka made a dig at Lyons, who she postulated was “getting ready for his new job making license plates at Walpole,” referencing the state prison.
After the event, Healey said that while “the jokes are terrible,” she enjoyed her first breakfast in the top role.
“Next year, I’m sure there will be a lot more fodder to work with.”