Just days after being sworn into office himself, Gov. James Michael Curley swore in Rep. Birmingham and Rep. Eugene H. Giroux of Somerville in the governor’s office. Both representatives were unable to attend the opening House session, the Boston Globe reported (Jan. 9, 1935, p. 17).
They were conducted to the governor’s office by Rep. Edward J. Kelley of Worcester, who took over the Democratic House Floor Leader position from Birmingham, who did not run for the position in 1935.
Curley and Birmingham had a long political history together. When Birmingham was first elected to office in 1925, he was a backer of Curley. But in the early 1930s, the two Boston politicians had a tense relationship.
Birmingham was a leading critic regarding alleged corruption when Curley served as Boston mayor.
In 1932, Birmingham attacked Curley for stealing city funds, during House debate over whether to override Gov. Joseph Ely's veto of a bill to allow Boston to take a two-year hiatus on its annual contribution to the municipal retirement fund.
Birmingham charged that the reason the mayor was seeking to suspend payments was because he had wasted taxpayer money in paying high prices for goods.
“Figures in my possession from the finance commission on the purchase of supplies show a flagrant waste of municipal funds in the payment of excessive prices for commodities,” Birmingham said during the floor debate.
Birmingham implied that the Mohawk Packing Co was a front for Curley to benefit from the excessive payments to vendors.
In 1933, Birmingham supported an investigation into the financial operations of the Curley administration that was then being considered by the House.
The two Boston politicians were also at odds over the Democratic presidential nominee in 1932. Birmingham backed Al Smith, while Curley backed Franklin Roosevelt.
In fact, Birmingham tried to prevent Curley from speaking at the Democratic National Convention. The Massachusetts delegation all supported Smith, but Curley was able to sneak into the convention as a delegate from Puerto Rico under the alias of Alcalde Jaime Curleo.
Both Birmingham and Chelsea Mayor Lawrence F. Quigley had challenged Curley’s right to speak at the convention. However, they were caught off guard when Curley took the stage at the convention and joined in the seconding of John Garner as the running mate to FDR, which became the Democratic ticket endorsed at the convention.