Representative Stephen F. Lynch, who has been making much of his working-class roots in his race for the Democratic Senate nomination against fellow representative Edward J. Markey, declared Sunday that both would bring a blue-collar perspective to Washington.
“Either I will be the first ironworker elected to the US Senate, or Ed Markey will be the first ice-cream truck driver,” Lynch said, poking fun of Markey’s job while in college, at the annual St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast in South Boston. “So we’ll either have a voice for working families, or a voice for Ben & Jerry’s.”
At the breakfast — a mix of clunkers, zingers, and brickbats that is either loved or loathed, depending on your perspective — the upcoming Senate race provided some of the easiest fodder for politicians in need of a quick quip. So, too, did jokes about the papal conclave, Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s two decades in office, and Mitt Romney’s run for the presidency.
Markey was clearly on Lynch’s territory at the political roast, which Lynch hosted for many years when he was the state senator from South Boston. Despite his seniority over Lynch in Congress, Markey got a speaking slot after his rival and a seat farther from the cameras. Lynch also got a standing ovation while Markey received only tepid applause.
But Markey tried to warm up the crowd with a dose of self-deprecation about his 36 years in Congress and a little shot at Lynch. “I’m prepared to show my long-form birth certificate, proving I was born in Congress,” Markey said. He said Lynch, too, has agreed to show his birth certificate, proving, “he was born with his work boots, in a manger, that he welded together himself. That’s Southie!”
House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo took his own little shot at Markey’s long tenure in Washington. “How many of you saw the movie ‘Lincoln’?” DeLeo said. “How about the scene where you get to see Ed Markey sworn in?”
This year’s breakfast was notable for some major figures who were not in attendance, including Governor Deval Patrick, interim Senator William “Mo” Cowan, much of the US House delegation, and two of the three Republicans running for US Senate. The absences suggested that the event’s prestige may have fallen since its heyday years ago when it was a required stop for politicians throughout Massachusetts and, on occasion, would even draw a phone call from White House.
Former governor William F. Weld and his wife, Leslie, made a surprise appearance that immediately began stirring speculation about Weld’s interest in running for office again in Massachusetts. Attendees were asking themselves: Why else would the former governor show up?
Weld crooned versions of “Wild Rover” and “New York, New York,” about his recent return to Boston from Manhattan. (Sample lyric: “Start spreading the booze . . . ”)
After poking some light fun at Markey and Lynch, he took aim at Patrick’s recent push for a major tax hike on Beacon Hill. The last time Democrats tried that in the late 1980s, Weld said, “it produced four Republican governors in a row.”
He seemed delighted to be at the breakfast he helped host for years with the legendary South Boston politician, William M. Bulger. “It’s just so great to be here,” Weld said.
Menino, who has not said whether he will seek a record sixth term in office next year, said he was surprised that Pope Benedict stepped down. Menino said Benedict must not have known the papacy is a lifetime job — “You know, like mayor of Boston,” he said.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, making her second appearance at the breakfast, cracked jokes mostly at the expense of Republicans.
Speaking of the recent papal conclave in Rome, she said, “I thought Cardinal O’Malley was a sure bet until I found out who was running his campaign: Eric Fehrnstrom.” Fehrnstrom, of course, is the Republican strategist who helped run the unsuccessful campaigns of Mitt Romney and Scott Brown last fall.
State Representative Daniel B. Winslow, one of the three Republicans running for US Senate, came in for some ribbing for his opposition to an assault weapons ban and his support for marijuana legalization.
“He wants us armed, and stoned,” Warren said.
To which the host of the breakfast, City Councilor Bill Linehan of South Boston, added, “That’s like the old Southie days.”
Gabriel E. Gomez, the former US Navy SEAL who is running for the GOP Senate nomination, was zinged for writing a letter to Patrick in January asking the governor to appoint him to the interim Senate seat. In the letter, Gomez pledged to support President Obama’s agenda on gun control and immigration.
“I’m sorry I don’t have any advice for Gabriel Gomez,” Warren said, “because I always support my fellow Democrats.”
Winslow was the only Republican candidate to make an appearance at the roast.
Patrick, who would not say why he skipped the roast, sent in a video that depicted him holding a press conference in the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency gear he usually trots out during blizzards. “I’m wearing the MEMA vest because this breakfast is so often a disaster,” he said.
Michael Levenson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@mlevenson.