LOWELL --- The way state Sen. Eileen Donoghue tells it, state Treasurer Steve Grossman and Attorney General Martha Coakley have similar campaign strategies in their respective bids to be governor.
Grossman, Donoghue joked Monday at the annual Lowell St. Patrick's Day Breakfast, will go into a diner, tip big, and ask the wait staff to vote for him. Coakley will do about the same -- but she'll leave a nickel, and then ask them to vote for Grossman.
The three biggest names in the governor's race -- Democrats Grossman and Coakley, plus Republican Charlie Baker -- each took a turn at the podium, offering their best barbs and Irish-influenced humor.
They headlined a bill of at least 15 candidates for statewide office who worked the crowd and gathered signatures from supporters.
"I think for a statewide candidate, it's a great opportunity for them to introduce themselves to the Greater Lowell area," said Donoghue, who hosted the breakfast along with Acting City Manager Michael Geary. "It's a really important area, politically, in the state, and not one that anyone can predict what way it goes."
Coakley drew applause when she pointed out that between Donoghue's hosting of the event and newly elected state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry running the show at South Boston's breakfast Monday, it "looks like chicks are in charge."
Speaking next, Grossman also got the crowd of around 450 guests clapping, but to a rhythm, as he sang the Boston folk song, "Charlie on the MTA."
Making light of his status as one of few Republicans in the room, Baker thanked organizers for demonstrating their "commitment to diversity" by "including someone with my particularly unusual background."
Though they did not have speaking roles, three other gubernatorial candidates -- Democrats Don Berwick and Joe Avellone and Independent Jeff McCormick -- also came out for Monday's breakfast, as did three Democratic treasurer hopefuls: state Sen.Barry Finegold of Andover, state Rep. Tom Conroy of Wayland and former Brookline Selectman Deb Goldberg.
Grossman has won the backing of Lowell's state representatives, though Rep. David Nangle joked that might be a burden more than a boon -- he and Reps. Tom Golden and Kevin Murphy don't typically pick winning candidates.
Regardless of the local legislators' endorsement track record, statewide candidates made a point of highlighting their Lowell connections.
Coakley, a former Middlesex district attorney, name-dropped current Lowell Police Superintendent Bill Taylor and his predecessors Ken Lavallee, now a security specialist at Enterprise Bank, and Ed Davis, who retired as Boston's police commissioner last year.
The last time she was regularly in the Mill City, Coakley said, was "so long ago that Billy Taylor was just starting as a police officer, Kenny Lavallee -- who's now a banker -- was just a police officer, and Eddie Davis was the sergeant in charge of vice."
Calling Lowell a "city on the move," Grossman praised Donoghue, Golden, Murphy and Nangle for their ability to secure state resources.
"If you look at the Merrimack Valley, if you look at this state, if you look at the small businesses growing and flourishing, it's because you have a phenomenal delegation," he said.
Lieutenant-governor candidate Leland Cheung told guests he's got Lowell ties -- a Cambridge city councilor, he worked with recently retired City Manager Robert Healy there.
Healy once served as Lowell's acting city manager and lives in the city's Belvidere section.
Each of the four Democratic lieutenant governor contenders was in attendance Monday morning. Besides Cheung, the field includes former USDA Food and Nutritional Services Regional Administrator James Arena-DeRosa, Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund President Steve Kerrigan and Mike Lake, CEO of the public-policy initiative Leading Cities.
Arena-DeRosa's campaign is managed by Daniel Murphy of Lowell, twin brother of former Mayor Patrick Murphy. The candidate posted on Twitter during the breakfast that he was "glad we picked an Irishman" for the role.<.p>
Kerrigan's trip to Lowell was the start of a full day of appearances, with a stop in Pittsfield scheduled next.
After the breakfast, Lake cheered the event as one that highlights the close bonds between area politicians.
"It's one of those days during the year that we can really kind of put aside our differences and have a little fun with each other, and focus on what really brings us together, which is public service," he said.
Democratic attorney general candidates Warren Tolman and Maura Healey both showed Irish spirit.
"An Irish girl like me, how could I not love this?" Healey remarked after the breakfast.
Tolman sported a shamrock-print tie, which he joked is permanently attached for the series of St. Patrick's Day events throughout the state all month long, until next week's in Holyoke.
Follow Katie Lannan on Twitter and Tout @katielannan.