(Dina Rudick/Globe Staff)
The glad-handing, picture posing, and campaign promises took on a new fervor this morning as politicians vying for seats from City Council to US Senate worked a hotel ballroom packed with hundreds of union members.
Candidates small-talked from table to table at the Park Plaza Hotel, schmoozing labor leaders and chatting up reporters at the Greater Boston Labor Council breakfast. The annual Labor Day rite that unofficially kicks off what promises to be a frenzied political season: open City Council seats; a heated mayor's race in Boston; a special election for the first open US Senate seat in Massachusetts in 25 years.
This is a breakfast where even the waitstaff wore stickers displaying their candidate of choice: Tito Jackson for City Council. Menino for Mayor. Coakley for US Senate. But the event was dominated by the lingering presence of one major politician whose absence was noted with placards, buttons, and a moment of silence. Senator Edward M. Kennedy died last month after 47 years in office, where he often championed the causes of organized labor.
"Kennedy was always there fighting and always there pushing for us when no one else was," said Louis Mandarini, president of the labor council, in a speech to the crowd.
The race for Kennedy's successor provided the most buzz. Pundits closely monitored who attended the breakfast -- and who did not -- for signals about who may or may not jump into the senate race. Notably absent was Joseph P. Kennedy II, the former congressman and nephew of Senator Kennedy. Other potential candidates who came to the breakfast included US Representatives Michael Capuano, Edward J. Markey, and Stephen Lynch, all Democrats who are eying the seat.
The lone candidate who has already announced her intention to run -- current state Attorney General Martha Coakley -- gave a speech outlining her union chops. Coakley touted her record on prevailing wage enforcement; support for the employee free choice act, which makes it easier for workers to unionize; and her support for a "viable public option" in health care reform.
"We've been able to find the money to bail out Wall Street and big insurance companies," Coakley said. "We should be able to find the money to reform our health care system."
At the same time, the push continued for a change to state law that would allow the governor to appoint an interim senator to serve until the special election, which is scheduled for Jan. 19.
"There is too much at stake not to be at full strength in the Senate," said Robert Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.
Other faces at the breakfast included Sam Yoon, current city councilor and mayor candidate; Secretary of State William Galvin; and state Treasurer Timothy Cahill.
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