As he turned 74 on Sunday, veteran Democratic Congressman Danny Davis mocked what he said were rumors of his retirement, announcing he would run for another term in Washington next year.

“People have been suggesting I may not run for re-election,” Davis said Sunday, at what was billed as a campaign kickoff party in the Austin neighborhood. “I do not know what that’s all about.”

Davis, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 1996, said unnamed would-be challengers were looking for glory but the job of representing the state’s 7th Congressional District is “as serious as cancer.”

Asked later whom he was referring to in his speech, Davis said he has heard about several potential challengers, including Ald. Walter Burnett (27th).

Burnett said he has no plans to challenge Davis — although he and others would be interested in running for the seat when Davis retires.

Burnett said there are widespread rumors that Davis would pull out at a late stage, giving a handpicked, privately anointed successor a better chance to ramp up for the race than others who might want to run.

“We are concerned about a bait-and-switch,” Burnett said, adding that Davis had suggested he would run for mayor or Cook County Board president in recent years, only to drop out.

Davis told supporters Sunday that, because of all the dire problems in the country and the world today, “We need as much seasoned leadership as we can get.” Davis noted he is No. 73 in seniority among House members.

In June, Davis’ niece Quinshaunta Golden was sentenced to eight years in federal prison for her part in a theft and bribery scheme that defrauded the state of millions of dollars.

The congressman had written a letter to the judge in urging leniency. But Davis said Sunday he had never recommended Golden for the job where she took $400,000 in kickbacks as chief of staff to Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, President Barack Obama’s close friend, during Whitaker’s tenure leading the state health department.

“She didn’t need any recommendation from me to get her job,” Davis said, describing Golden as one of the smartest people he knows and highly educated.

He said Golden’s corruption case was “an unfortunate set of circumstances.”

“We all wish it had not happened, but it did and it’s done,” Davis said. “Now she’s moving ahead with her life.”

The 7th Congressional District stretches from the lakefront to Interstate 294, including downtown, the West Side, parts of the South Side and the near-western suburbs.