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No resting on laurels, the victor promises

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By Stephanie Ebbert
Globe Staff / November 4, 2009

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The shirts said it all: “History Made.’’

For the celebration of his election yesterday to a record fifth term, many of Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s diverse group of supporters showed up wearing T-shirts with that message, along with the number 5 on the sleeve.

After 16 years as mayor of Boston, Menino faced his first grueling reelection challenge this year from Councilor at Large Michael F. Flaherty Jr., but still coasted to a strong victory with 57 percent of the vote, to Flaherty’s 42 percent.

Last night, as he took to the stage with his family after his win was assured, Menino spoke graciously of his challenger but said he faces an even more daunting foe as he starts his next term.

“The stories may say that today we beat our toughest opponent,’’ Menino told about 400 supporters. “But we haven’t passed the biggest obstacle yet. Complacency is the highest hurdle we face. Let us fend off the temptation to rest on past accomplishments or to walk in familiar paths. When we do, let them write only then that we overcame our strongest challenge.’’

In the ballroom of the Fairmont Copley Plaza, a table was laden with plates piled high with brie and cranberries, smoked gouda and strawberries, and crudités with creamy dill dip. A cash bar offered $10 cocktails, $7 beer, or $5 water or soda.

The celebration drew not only powerful political allies, including developer Joe Fallon and labor leader Janice Loux, but also everyday supporters of the mayor who wandered into the ballroom to join the celebration.

“He’s a good guy. He’s very visible. He’s everywhere. What more do you want?’’ asked C. Paul Luongo, a voter and public relations manager who lives on Clarendon Street. He said Flaherty will be a good mayor in the future, and said of this year’s campaign, “It’s a dress rehearsal.’’

Some at the party said they would never consider voting for someone other than Menino. “Absolutely not,’’ said Richard Wright, probation officer for Suffolk County, who volunteered for Menino. “You’ve got to have loyalty.’’

Even Peggy Davis-Mullen, a former city councilor who challenged Menino in 2001 in a sometimes acrimonious contest, joined Menino’s victory party.

“I think it’s a very difficult and scary time for a lot of families,’’ she said. “Clearly what we’ve seen over the last decade is the people of Boston feel very comfortable with him and safe with him.’’

Davis-Mullen complimented Flaherty and Yoon for running a “fantastic race’’ that she said was good for the mayor. “Keeps him young,’’ she joked. “Since I’m not around, somebody’s got to do it.’’

As he left the party, the mayor who once promised not to occupy the office for more than two terms was refusing to say that the fifth would be his last.

“Give me a break, will ya?’’ the mayor said. “I have to get through tonight.’’