STEVE LeBLANC Associated Press
---- — BOSTON (AP) — Boston’s longest-serving mayor, Thomas Menino, won’t seek re-election for a sixth term amid ongoing health problems.
A person with direct knowledge of his decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Menino planned to announce he wouldn’t be seeking re-election. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly.
Menino’s spokeswoman would say only that the mayor planned an announcement for today.
The 70-year-old Democrat was re-elected to a fifth four-year term in 2009. He has recently faced a series of health problems but has remained popular with voters.
Menino was hospitalized for eight weeks in the fall after a respiratory infection and a blood clot that was complicated by a spinal fracture and diabetes.
He told reporters in November that he had no plans to retire but deflected questions about whether he would seek another term.
Menino’s decision is expected to trigger a political scramble to replace him as a new generation of political figures eye the mayor’s office.
Menino already has one challenger, City Councilor John Connolly, who declared his mayoral bid last month. Menino had been considered a heavy favorite to win re-election.
As recently as January, Menino delivered an upbeat assessment of the city during his annual state of the city address.
Menino used a cane to walk to the podium and spoke vigorously about his plans for Boston. At the time, Menino gave no indication on whether he’d decided to seek a sixth term this year.
“Our progress is real. Our future is bright. The state of our city is striking, sound and strong,” he said in prepared remarks that cited progress on economic development and crime reduction.
As recently as Tuesday, Menino appeared at a rally at Boston City Hall plaza to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Menino became acting mayor after his predecessor, Raymond Flynn, left office in 1993 after being named ambassador to the Vatican.
The city’s previous longest serving mayor, the late Kevin White, was in office for four terms, from 1968 to 1983.
During his years in office, Menino also became a vigorous national voice in favor of stricter gun control measures.
He co-founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and criticized the National Rifle Association’s call for more armed guards at schools after the Connecticut school shooting in December.
“That is crazy,” Menino said. “Every victim of gun violence and their families knows that’s crazy.”
Last year, Menino also played a crucial role in helping elect U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, campaigning with her at stops across the city.