For some politicians, it can be more petrifying than Election Day: Getting up on a stage and trying to be funny.
But that’s exactly what the Bay State’s top elected officials – and perhaps some of the folks running against them – will be attempting at the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in South Boston on Sunday morning.
Hosted by state Sen. Jack Hart (D-South Boston), the event will start at 10 a.m. and be broadcast live on New England Cable News from the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Former Massachusetts House Speaker Thomas Finneran will broadcast it on his radio show, “Finneran’s Forum,” on WRKO 680 AM.
The list of expected attendees includes Gov. Deval Patrick and several of his challengers; House Speaker Robert DeLeo; Senate President Therese Murray; Mayor Thomas Menino; and U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, along with other members of the state’s Washington delegation.
“It’s going to be the further coronation of Scott Brown,” predicted City Councillor John Tobin, who books comedians on the side and helps operate Tommy’s Comedy Lounge in the Theater District.
Since his victory over Attorney General Martha Coakley in January, Brown has become one of the brightest stars on the nation’s political scene, campaigning for U.S. Sen. John McCain in Arizona and getting spoofed by the Saturday Night Live crew.
But the focus won’t just be on Brown. The various races at the state level – voters will go to the polls to pull the lever for their choice for governor, treasurer, and auditor, among others – will offer plenty of fodder. “There are a lot of races so there’ll be a lot of jabbing going on,” said state Rep. Marty Walsh (D-Savin Hill). “You’ll have a lot of jockeying in good fun.”
The breakfast is often viewed as a chance for politicians to tweak their rivals away from the high-tension atmosphere on Beacon Hill. Patrick, whose administration has provided plenty of ammunition to would-be comedians each year, is expected to continue his tradition of singing a song. Last year, he warbled a ditty about the state’s transportation infrastructure to the tune of “Wild Rover.” And he previously sang a song about bringing casinos to the Bay State – with members of the Dorchester delegation singing back-up – to the tune of the Foxwoods theme song. There were also plenty of shots last year at his approval ratings, which remain low as he now faces a field of five electoral opponents, including Republicans Charlie Baker and Christy Mihos, independent candidate and state Treasurer Timothy Cahill, Democrat Grace Ross, and Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein.
“I’d put my money on the governor pulling off something funny,” Walsh said. “I think he’ll be ready for them.”
The breakfast will also feature a familiar face: Worcester County Sheriff Guy Glodis, who previously had been banned for several quips, such as joking that Menino made an Armani suit look like a “sack of potatoes.” A Glodis spokesman confirmed he was attending this year but he does not have a speaking role.
For top pols, there is one way to get through the breakfast: Go first and be self-deprecating. For example, Menino took shots at himself last year as three of his opponents looked on. He quipped that he was working on a “Menino-to-English” dictionary. Tobin advises pols to also pay attention to the jokes told, and keep a pen handy to scratch some off if somebody uses a similar joke first.
And as for all the expected Scott Brown jokes, Tobin noted that “we all know he posed nude and drove a pick-up truck” in his long-shot bid for the late Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat. “No matter what happens, he has the last laugh,” Tobin said.
In a statement, Hart said he expected it to be a “memorable roast.” Hart took over the breakfast, an annual occurrence since the 1950s, in 2002 from U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch. Jim Braude, the host of “Broadside” on NECN, will anchor the telecast.
Ex-aide to Hart jumps into Wallace seat race
Nick Collins, a former aide to state Sen. Hart, is throwing his hat into the ever-increasing field of candidates running to replace state Rep. Brian Wallace. Wallace (D-South Boston) last week decided to abandon efforts to run for another term.
The field includes more Democrats than Republicans, though Wallace’s district is one in which U.S. Sen. Brown (R-Wrentham) did well. The Fourth Suffolk District includes parts of Uphams Corner and the Harbor Point neighborhood.
Collins has also worked on Vice President Joseph Biden’s campaign for president and is a founder of the Collegiate Little League Baseball Clinic.
Former Coakley aide takes job with an auditor candidate
Dorchester native Dan Cullinane has jumped onto another campaign: he’s the new field director for state auditor candidate Mike Lake, he told friends this week. Cullinane served as deputy field director for Coakley’s U.S. Senate campaign. “While the final result was not what we had hoped, I take with me many valuable lessons and relationships which afford me the skills and confidence to take on my new responsibilities as field director for Mike Lake,” Cullinane wrote in an e-mail to his friends.
The current auditor, former boxer Joseph DeNucci, is retiring after 24 years in the office. The auditor functions as an independent fiscal watchdog.
The field includes former labor secretary Suzanne Bump and Glodis on the Democratic side, and Framingham Republican Mary Connaughton, Lexington Republican Earle Stroll, and independent Kamal Jain of Lowell on the Republican side.
Cullinane called the 31-year-old Lake, a former Clinton White House aide making his first bid for office, as a “long-time friend and mentor.” A Providence College graduate, Cullinane has also worked for Coakley’s fair labor division on Beacon Hill, as communications director for City Councillor Maureen Feeney, and as constituent services director for state Rep. Walsh.
Lake is the executive director of the World Class Cities Partnership and a senior associate at Northeastern University’s Center for Urban and Regional Policy. “I’m a problem solver, not a politician. People in the commonwealth are looking for that,” Lake recently told the State House News Service. “We have a real issue of trust with the public and its government. I think the perspective of an outsider can build and restore that trust.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Material from State House News Service was used in this report. Check out updates on Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at dotnews.com/litdrop.