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Potential challenger takes on Boston's longest-serving mayor

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino addresses delegates during the second session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina,
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino addresses delegates during the second session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina,

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Boston city councilor and education advocate became the first candidate to launch his campaign for mayor this year, potentially setting up a challenge to the longest-serving mayor in city history, Thomas Menino.

The challenger, John Connolly, is a former school teacher who would likely face an uphill fight if Menino, 70, opts to seek a sixth term in the office he has held since 1993. Both are Democrats.

Menino has not yet declared whether he will run again after a month-long hospitalization late last year related to a virus he contracted while on vacation in Italy.

Connolly, 39, said in a posting on his Web site that his focus as mayor would be trying to improve the city's school system.

"Mayor Menino is a good man," Connolly said. "I've worked with him and I respect him immensely but transforming our schools requires new ideas, new energy and a bold desire to break the status quo."

Incumbent mayors in Boston rarely lose re-election bids. Menino's predecessor, Raymond Flynn, stepped down when President Bill Clinton named him ambassador to the Vatican.

In the city's 2009 mayoral election, Menino's most serious challenge came from then-city councilor Michael Flaherty, who has since left politics and gone into private legal practice.

(Reporting By Scott Malone; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Nick Zieminski)

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