On September 28, 2023, we lost a generational giant when Senator Diane Feinstein at the age of 90. While some are critical that she held on to power for a bit too long, the issue became moot when she passed away.
I was graduating from college in 1978 when Diane Feinstein’s political career was catapulted by the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk and the appointment of Feinstein to become the City of San Francisco’s first woman Mayor. During her time, Mayor Feinstein was extremely popular. She led the renovation of the city’s cable car system and drew national attention during the 1984 DNC in her city. She was on Walter Mondale’s short list as a running mate in 1984, only second to Geraldine Ferraro who got the nod. After losing a Gubernatorial race in 1990, she ran for US Senate in 1992 and won the seat becoming the first woman to hold the US Senate office in California. As Senator, she often spoke about how proud she was to author the 1994 federal assault rifle ban that stayed the law of the land until it lapsed in 2004 and has not been renewed since. She also proudly sat as ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee from 2017 to 2021.
I recall during her last election cycle when she spoke at the California Democratic Party Endorsement Convention in 2018. Her speech went overtime and if you have ever been to an endorsement convention, music begins to play and loudens as your overtime continues. When the music was so loud that she probably couldn’t hear herself speak, she uttered awkwardly: “I guess my time is up.” She was not endorsed by the Democratic Party but won reelection later that year.
I did not always agree with Senator Feinstein on certain votes (the Bush “tax cuts” comes to mind), but I always believed she had Californians in mind when she voted or acted. Her integrity was never in doubt by me.
Now Governor Newsom must settle on a replacement for Senator Feinstein. We are already in the primary season for that office with three major candidates seeking the California Democratic Party endorsement this November and competing in the primary come March 2024: Congressmembers Katie Porter, Adam Schiff, and Barbara Lee are actively competing for endorsement and votes. Governor Newsom had previously stated that he would appoint a black woman for that seat if the situation arose. That comment came amidst his appointment of Alex Padilla to replace Kamala Harris when Senator Harris became then candidate Joe Biden’s running mate in 2020. But it is unlikely Governor Newsome will appoint one of the active candidates and will more likely appoint a caretaker for the remainder of Senator Feinstein’s term. He does not want to put his thumb on the scale by appointing a current candidate who then instantly has the advantage of incumbency. The decision should be made very soon so stay tuned.
President, San Marcos Democratic Club