Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has died at the age of 90.
Feinstein served in the Senate for 30 years, shepherding impactful gun control, environmental regulation, and domestic violence policy into law.
A Democrat, Feinstein was born Dianne Goldman on June 22, 1933 in San Francisco. She graduated from Stanford University in 1955. She was married three times and has one daughter. The details of her passing have not been publicly released.
Feinstein was the mayor of San Francisco from November 1978 to January 1988. She was elected to the Senate in 1992 and announced in February that this would be her final term in office.
“I campaigned in 2018 on several priorities for California and the nation: preventing and combating wildfires, mitigating the effects of record-setting drought, responding to the homelessness crisis, and ensuring all Americans have access to affordable, high-quality health care,” Feinstein said in a statement. “Congress has enacted legislation on all of these topics over the past several years, but more needs to be done — and I will continue these efforts.”
Feminists have long celebrated Feinstein as a hero to the cause, describing her as “a hardworking and progressive democratic leader who has won the respect of colleagues from both sides of the spectrum.”
According to ABC 7 News, which confirmed her death:
Her career was one of many firsts. She was the first woman president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the first woman mayor of San Francisco, and one of two of the first women elected to the U.S. Senate from California. … In Congress, Feinstein served as the first woman to chair the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee. She authored the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, leading to a 10 year restriction on certain semi-automatic weapons.
She also assisted in the creation of the AMBER alert network and in the passage of the Violence Against Women Act.
Feinstein was the longest-serving senator from California and the oldest member of the United States Congress in 2023.
Questions about the senator’s health have plagued her office for some time. She was hospitalized in February after contracting shingles and brain swelling as well as Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which left her with partial facial paralysis. Feinstein spent three months recovering in California and returned to the Senate in May. Republicans objected to her request to have someone replace her on the Judiciary Committee and the conflict stalled the confirmation of several of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees.
She was later hospitalized in August after falling in her home.
There were also preexisting concerns about Feinstein’s mental well-being. On the day she announced her retirement, Feinstein seemed unaware that her office had released a statement on her behalf. She told reporters that she hadn’t made a decision.
“I haven’t released anything,” the senator said before being corrected by a staffer.
“Over her three decades in the Senate, Feinstein has generally been seen as a political moderate in her party. In the 1990s and 2000s, that reputation made Feinstein highly popular — but much of that popularity eroded in the proceeding years as California’s political tint shifted toward deeper shades of blue,” reports CNBC.
The responsibility of appointing Feinstein’s replacement now falls to California Governor Gavin Newsom.
Congresswoman Barabara Lee already announced her campaign to fill Feinstein’s seat.
“Senator Feinstein has been a barrier breaker for all of us who have been inspired by her monumental career, myself included,” Lee said during her announcement.