Dianne Feinstein to retire: Looking back on tragedy, triumph and her contentious perseverance
Los Angeles Times February 14, 2023
(Tribune News Service) — Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California’s longest-serving senator, announced Tuesday that she will not run for reelection next year. Here’s a look at her storied career in politics, which included both tragedy and triumph.
1969: Elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors
At 36, Dianne Feinstein was the first woman ever elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors without having first been appointed to the panel. It was her first bid for political office. She later served as the board’s president.
1978: Assassination of George Moscone and Harvey Milk
Feinstein became acting mayor of San Francisco after the murders of Mayor George Mascone and Supervisor Harvey Milk by a City Hall colleague on Nov. 27. She was the first woman mayor of San Francisco, holding office for about 10 years. During her tenure, she was named the nation’s most effective mayor in 1987 by City and State magazine and helped save the city’s iconic cable cars.
1984: Defeated an attempted recall
A recall campaign to oust Feinstein was pushed by the White Panthers, a counterculture-era Haight-Ashbury political commune, and rejected by 82% of San Francisco voters. The recall was launched because of her support for a ban on handguns that was signed into law four years after the City Hall assassinations.
1990: Ran unsuccessfully for governor
Feinstein ran unsuccessfully for governor of California in 1990. Although she won the Democratic nomination, she was defeated in the general election by Republican Pete Wilson. She lost with about 45% of the vote, winning Los Angeles and her native San Francisco.
1992: Year of the woman
Feinstein won a seat in the Senate in a special election held to fill the vacant seat of Pete Wilson, who resigned to become governor of California after defeating Feinstein for that post. Voters also elected Barbara Boxer to the Senate in what would become known as the “year of the woman.” Feinstein was sworn in before Boxer, making her the first woman senator to represent California.
1994: Assault weapons ban
Feinstein wrote the 1994 federal legislation banning assault weapons, which prohibited the sale, transfer, manufacture and importation of semiautomatic and military-grade arms. The ban expired in 2004, but research shows that it reduced firearm-related homicides by at least 6.7%, decreased the use of assault weapons in crime by about two-thirds, and prevented mass shootings during those ten years.
2014: CIA and torture
Feinstein released the Senate’s executive summary of a classified report detailing the CIA’s use of torture after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The report revealed that the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program had produced false confessions and fabricated information, and that the use of torture had produced no useful intelligence about imminent terrorist attacks. Feinstein said the CIA had engaged in activities that were “a stain on our values and our history.”
2018: Brett Kavanaugh
Feinstein became a central figure in the Senate confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh after receiving a letter from a California woman who said she’d been sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh when they were in high school. After a hearing regarding the allegations, the committee voted 11-10 along party lines to move forward with the confirmation. Kavanaugh was sworn into office in October with a 50-48 vote.
2018: Rejected by own party
Feinstein surprised many when she announced her campaign for a sixth term in the Senate in 2018 election instead of retiring as many expected. Although she lost the endorsement of the California Democratic Party to Kevin de León, she defeated him in the general election 54%-46%.
2020: The hug that infuriated anti- Trump Democrats
Feinstein faced criticism from Democrats for praising Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s management of confirmation hearings for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, who was confirmed days before the 2020 election. Frustration had been mounting for liberals who thought that Feinstein, 87, was no longer fit to serve in office.
2022: Became the longest-serving female senator in U.S. history.
Feinstein became the longest-serving female senator in U.S. history with 30 years in office. “We went from two women senators when I ran for office in 1992 to 24 today — and I know that number will keep climbing,” she said in a release.
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