If the mayor's race was based on the caliber of jokes last Sunday at the St. Patrick's Day breakfast, City Councillor At-Large Sam Yoon might have scored an upset. That's according to an informal survey of participants of the annual Irish-themed roast of Massachusetts politics and politicians.
Yoon, making his first speaking appearance at the breakfast, veered between plays on his name and the mystery of what a fortune cookie supposedly foretelling the next mayor of Boston said.
When his family came to Ellis Island, Yoon, who is South Korean, joked that authorities asked for him to drop the "O" from "O'Yoon." "That's not true. My original name was Sam McYoon," he added.
Both Yoon and fellow City Councillor At-Large Michael Flaherty took swipes at the incumbent, Mayor Thomas Menino. Meanwhile, Kevin McCrea, a South End businessman and announced candidate for mayor, sat among the 600 attendees at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
"What has been around for 16 years, mostly underground and behind closed doors, leaving thousands of Bostonians confused?" Flaherty asked the crowd. "Boy, am I glad the Big Dig is finally over."
Flaherty added another dig at the long-time mayor: "As you know, I'm running for mayor of Boston, and I have an opponent. My opponent works hard, is highly educated, and is known to speak a foreign language. Councilor Yoon, welcome to the mayor's race."
And Yoon, struggling with unwrapping the fortune cookie, quipped, "What I'd really like for this fortune cookie to say is whether the mayor's running." (The fortune cookie ended up saying, according to Yoon, "Happy St. Patrick's Day!")
For his part, Menino took shots at himself, setting up a "Flub Jug" for when he mangled words or another speaker took shots at him, and stating that he was working on a "Menino-to-English" dictionary.
Menino, who has not formally announced whether he's running for re-election, subtly hinted at sticking around for another term, as he had in his State of the City address. Menino compared himself to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady: "We both have beautiful wives, we both had knee surgery and we'll both be back leading our team for years to come."
"Menino more or less announced," said Steve Sweeney, the popular comedian who also performed at the breakfast.
"The new guy made the biggest impression," Sweeney said of Yoon.
Other partipants agreed. "I thought Councillor Yoon did pretty well," said Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth), who spent much of her time at the microphone teasing Gov. Deval Patrick over his proposal to raise taxes, old and new, and his transportation secretary, with whom Murray has repeatedly clashed in the press.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) also piled on Patrick and low approval ratings, pointing to former Speaker Thomas Finneran, who was broadcasting the breakfast in the back of the hall for WRKO. "The only thing lower than your ratings are Tom Finneran's radio show ratings."
When his turn came, Patrick employed "Wild Rover," an Irish folk tune, for a song about Republican neglect of the state's transportation infrastructure. And he also took a dig at the sniping between the legislative branches and his office over his proposed 19-cent gas tax increase.
"Instead of debate, we just get more drama, and it makes me rethink working for Obama," he sang.