Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has died at the age of 90 after a long struggle with health issues and a distinguished political career that saw her break many gender barriers.
The longtime Democratic senator had suffered from health issues in the past year, including a case of shingles that kept her away from the Senate for a month. She also fell at her San Francisco home in August and was briefly hospitalized.
Feinstein stayed in her Senate seat despite pressure to resign due to her health. She used a wheelchair in the Senate and aides had been seen directing her how to vote.
She was the fifth-oldest person to serve in the Senate but worked consistently. She voted in the Senate on Thursday morning, voting in favor of a bill to stop a government shutdown.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California will appoint her replacement.
‘She ws a political giant, whose tenacity was matched by her grace. She broke down barriers and glass ceilings but neve rlost her belief in the spirit of political cooperation. And she was a fighter,’ Newsom said in a statement.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has died at the age of 90, according to reports.
Her legacy will be one of a Democratic powerhouse who broke down barrier after barrier for women.
She was San Francisco’s first female mayor, where she put a gun ban in place in the city and saved its cable car system.
Her tenure there was during the height on the AIDS crisis, which, killed thousands of gay men. Hoping to save lives, Feinstein ordered the city’s famous bathhouses closed – a risky political move at the time.
Elected to the Senate in the ‘Year of the Woman,’ she was one of many firsts for women in the upper chamber, where she gained a reputation for political pragmaticism and a willingness to work across the aisle with Republicans.
A fierce advocate of gun control, she championed the assault weapons ban that then-President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1994.
She was the first woman to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel that oversee the confirmation of Supreme Court justices.
As chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Feinstein led a multiyear review of the CIA’s interrogation program developed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which led to legislation barring the use of those methods of torture.
She was responsible for the federal coordination of Amber Alerts, the national child abduction warning system; the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act; and she authored the 2022 Respect for Marriage Act, to enshrine marriage equality into federal law.
But her tenure became controversial when her health issues – including short-term memory loss – became more apparent and as California grew more liberal, leading to criticism of her willingness to work with the GOP.
During the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings in October 2020, progressives were outraged when Feinstein hugged Republican Senator Lindsey Graham at their completion, thanking him for how he had conducted the hearing.
There were calls for her to step down as the ranking Democratic member, which she ultimately did.
Additionally, it was her office that received the letter from Christine Blasey Ford during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanagh, where Ford accused him of sexual assault when they were in high school.
In 2023, she said she would not serve as the Senate president pro tempore, or the most senior member of the majority party, even though she was in line to do so. The president pro tempore opens the Senate every day and holds other ceremonial duties.
Feinstein at a memorial service for assassinated Supervisor Harvey Milk in November 1978
Dianne Feinstein was a fiece advocate for gun control who helped pass the Assault Weapons Ban
Dianne Feinstein with her husband Richard Blum in 2015 – he proceeded her in death
San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein carries a candle as she lead an estimated 15,000 marchers in memory of slain Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in San Francisco in 1979
In her final days, she was in a legal battle with trustees of her late husband’s estate, accusing them of elder abuse, asked they be removed from their position, and charged them with improperly financially enriched his three daughters.
She had appointed her own daughter, Katherine Feinstein, as having her power of attorney.
Feinstein was not running for re-election in 2024.
The race to replace her is competitive with several Democrats running to fill a Senate seat that hasn’t been vacant for 30 years, including Reps. Barbara Lee, Adam Schiff and Katie Porter.
Newsom has said he would appoint a black woman to the job. But he also said he wouldn’t appoint one of the announced candidate. Rep. Lee is black.
California has a jungle primary, meaning the top two winners, regardless of party, move forward to the general election. That means the heavily-Democratic state could see two Democrats running in the November 2024 election.
Feinstein was born Dianne Goldman in San Francisco on June 22, 1933.
She was raised by a Russian Orthodox mother and Jewish father.
She studied Stanford University where she graduated in 1955.
Her first foray into politics came in 1960 when then-Gov. Pat Brown appointed her to the California Women’s Parole Board.
She first held public office in 1969, at the age of 35, when she won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Senator Dianne Feinstein had years of servce on the Senate Judiciary Committee, above she is ranking member in 2018 while Republican Senator Chuck Grassley (left) served as chairman
Swearing-in of Diane Feinstein at the Senate in 1992
Feinstein speaking on telephone in private box during NFL game between San Francisco 49ers & Seattle Seahawks; looking at aide
She was elected president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1978 – the first woman to hold that position.
She had run for mayor of San Francisco twice and lost when tragedy struck. On November 27, 1978, Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated by former supervisor Dan White.
Feinstein found Milk’s body and spoke of how that moment shaped her views on guns.
She became acting mayor and was the first woman to serve as a mayor of the city.
She was elected in 1992 to the Senate – the same year as Barbara Boxer. With their election California became the first state to be have two female senators.
Dianne Feinstein was first elected to the Senate in 1992’s Year of the Woman – above she’s seen in the Capitol in 2022
San Francisco Mayo Dianne Feinstein and singer Tony Bennett on one of the city’s cable cars – Feinstein saved the city’s cable car system
In 1960, she married young and became a divorced single mother of her daughter, Katherine – an ususual status for that time.
Her second husband, Bert Feinstein, was 19 years older than her, but she described the marriage as ‘a 10’ and kept his name even after his death from cancer in 1978.
In 1980, she married investment banker Richard Blum, and thanks to his wealth, she was one of the richest members of the Senate. He died in February 2022.
She is survived by her daughter, Katherine Feinstein, a San Francisco County Superior Court judge; her son-in-law, Rick Mariano; and her granddaughter, Eileen Feinstein Mariano.