Linda Dorcena Forry took the microphone on Sunday morning and looked out into the crowd at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center where some 700 residents from Dorchester, South Boston, and Mattapan were dining on eggs, hash, and sausages.
“Last year I got eight seconds,” she quipped.
This year, it was two hours and a half. She is the First Suffolk District’s state senator now, instead of a candidate, and with the position comes the job of hosting the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, where politicians traditionally have traded light barbs with one another.
Last year’s host, City Council President Bill Linehan, was thousands of miles away, in Limerick, Ireland, for that city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. His absence provided much of the podium fodder, as did Republicans, like former Sen. Scott Brown and Republican candidate for governor Charlie Baker, on a stage overflowing with Democrats.
In the opening video , Dorcena Forry alluded to her Haitian heritage, leaning into a taxicab window as a man playing Linehan sat in the back seat. Take him for a “long, long ride,” she told the driver in Haitian Creole. A later video  showed her training with two past breakfast hosts, Congressman Stephen Lynch and former state Sen. Jack Hart, both South Boston residents, in an effort to “get her Southie on.”
The history of the senator taking over hosting duties was a constant theme, as Deval Patrick, happily making his last appearance at the breakfast as governor, embraced the host at center stage and noted, “this is what a Forry and a Patrick look like these days.”
Baker, who ran against Patrick in 2010 and is running again this year, also pointed to the crowd embracing the idea of Dorcena Forry as host. “Just maybe they’re ready to think about voting for a Republican for governor,” Baker said, prompting her to respond, “Not yet, Charlie.”
Dorcena Forry is the first woman, first person of color and the first person from Dorchester to host the breakfast. She is married to Bill Forry, an Irish-American who is the editor of the Reporter newspaper group.
The breakfast was dedicated to former Mayor Thomas Menino, who revealed to the Boston Globe on Saturday that he had been diagnosed with a serious form of cancer. “I’m a firm believer in the power of laughter,” Dorcena Forry told the crowd.
For his part, Menino, appearing to soak in sun rays near a pool, showed up in a video chat with Patrick. The governor called Menino for help with shortage of Duck Boats and Menino, with subtitles under him, said he wasn’t the mayor of Boston anymore. “But your name is still on everything,” Patrick responded.
Mayor Marty Walsh, making his first appearance behind the podium after years of sitting on the stage as a Dorchester state representative, said he had spoken with Menino on Saturday night and relayed to him that he is praying for him and his wife Angela. Walsh also labored over a joke about the Globe as an “absentee landlord” that is expected to eventually decamp from its Morrissey Boulevard headquarters. The newspaper’s editorial board endorsed his opponent in last year’s election.
Bill Bulger, the former Senate president and longtime host of the breakfast, made his first appearance at the breakfast in years, filming a short video with Dorcena Forry that had her asking for advice. “Keep ‘em laughing, keep ‘em smiling,” he said.
In another first for the breakfast, the prime minister of Ireland, Enda Kenny, attended and said a few words about the historic ties between Ireland and the United States as well as with Haiti. In keeping with one breakfast theme, Kenny said, “Your man Linehan sends his regards as well.”
Fired back Dorcena Forry: “Maybe, just maybe you can keep him.”