By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) - Boston's longest-serving mayor, Thomas Menino, was transferred on Monday from the hospital where he has been receiving treatment for a virus and back pain over the past month to another facility where he will continue his recovery.
The prolonged illness, and a new diagnosis of diabetes, come a few months before the 69-year-old Democrat must decide whether to seek a sixth term in the office he has held since 1993. He is up for re-election in November 2013.
Officials gave no immediate timetable for the 69-year-old Democrat's eventual release from Spaulding Rehabilitation hospital, where he will undergo physical therapy and continue to run the city from his hospital room.
"Now it's a matter of getting him stronger so that he can do all the things he typically does at this time of year," said Dot Joyce, Menino's spokeswoman. "He's able to engage fully. He meets with staff at least once a week and also takes calls as necessary, but right now he is focused on his care."
A prolonged hospitalization could increase the odds of a challenger seeking to unseat the incumbent, though he remains popular with Boston voters after almost two decades in office, observers said.
"In Boston, usually once you're in as mayor, most mayors tend to last a long time," said John Berg, a professor of government at Suffolk University in Boston. Menino's predecessor, Raymond Flynn, stepped down when President Bill Clinton named him ambassador to the Vatican.
Berg noted that Menino's campaign organization played a major role in supporting Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren's successful campaign to unseat Republican Sen. Scott Brown, a clear show of Menino's continued power even while he was in the hospital.
Joyce said it was "too soon" to comment on Menino's plans for the next election.
Menino was admitted to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston on October 26, after cutting short a vacation to Italy due to a virus. During his time in the hospital doctors also discovered and treated an infection in his back and diagnosed him with Type II diabetes.
On the national stage, Menino has stood out as an advocate for gun control and gay marriage, issues on which he has often worked alongside New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In July, he publicly urged fast food chain Chick-fil-A to stay out of Boston due to its president's "prejudiced statements" on same-sex marriage.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Dan Grebler)