SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a centrist Democrat who served as California’s senior senator since 1992, has died. She was 90.
The senator’s office confirmed Feinstein passed away Thursday night at her home in Washington, D.C.
The longtime California senator was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992 after winning a special election and was serving her sixth term at the time of her passing. Feinstein was California’s first woman senator. She cast her last vote in the Senate on Thursday.
Earlier this year, Feinstein announced that she would not seek reelection in 2024. She faced calls to resign as she battled health issues in recent months and was the oldest sitting senator.
In a statement from the senator’s office, Chief of Staff James Sauls said, “Her passing is a great loss for so many, from those who loved and cared for her to the people of California that she dedicated her life to serving.” Continuing, “There are few women who can be called senator, chairman, mayor, wife, mom and grandmother. Senator Feinstein was a force of nature who made an incredible impact on our country and her home state. She left a legacy that is undeniable and extraordinary.”
Capitol Hill observed a moment of silence Friday led by Sen. Chuck Schumer. A vase with flowers was placed at Sen. Feinstein’s seat in her memory. In San Francisco, flags at City Hall are flying at half-staff.
Leaders from San Francisco and California reacted shortly after reports of Feinstein’s passing. California Governor Gavin Newsom said Feinstein was a fighter for the city, the state and the country she loved. “Every race she won, she made history, but her story wasn’t just about being the first woman in a particular political office, it was what she did for California, and for America, with that power once she earned it. That’s what she should be remembered for.”
Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Feinstein a “champion for the Golden State” and said, “it was a great honor to serve alongside Dianne for decades – from the hilly streets of San Francisco to the hallowed halls of Congress.” Commending her work on the Judiciary Committee, Pelosi noted, “she authored and passed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which helped stem the tide of mass shootings for the ten years it was law and continued urging its renewal as an essential template for ending gun violence.”
San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued a statement that said, “As the first woman to serve as Mayor, she showed everyone growing up in this City, including me, what could be accomplished by a strong and determined leader.” Continuing, “Her dedication to public service was only exceeded by her love for San Francisco, and this City loved her back.”
California State Senator Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco, said, “She helped save our city, becoming Mayor after horrific political assassinations & leading us during the worst of the HIV/AIDS health disaster.”
In a statement, California Senator Alex Padilla said Feinstein “broke barriers throughout her career” and reminisced on how she gave him one of his first jobs in politics. “Her contributions to our nation, from gun safety and environmental conservation to national security and health care reform, are a reminder of the power of public service,” Padilla said.
State Senator Dave Cortese, representing much of Santa Clara County, including San Jose, issued a list of improvements to the Bay Area attributed to Feinstein. She was “instrumental” in the “creation and expansion of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, a critical wetland area,” as well as bringing BART to San Jose, Cortese said.
California State Senator Bill Dodd said he worked with Feinstein starting in the early 2000s when she helped secure federal dollars for Napa County’s flood control project. “She had an incredible grasp of every detail” in the project, Dodd said. “In her remarkable tenure she compiled an impressive record that improved life for all Californians.”
Oakland leaders also expressed their thoughts on the legacy of Feinstein. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao called her a “fierce advocate” for women in politics but said, “it was her work to end gun violence that I believe will be her most powerful legacy.” Rep. Barbara Lee, representing Oakland among other areas of Alameda County, said on X, “Sen. Feinstein was a champion for our state, and served as the voice of a political revolution for women.”
Rep. Josh Harder, who represents District 9 of California, called Feinstein a “trailblazer” and an “advocate for the Valley.” California District 2 Rep. Jared Huffman said, “Dianne Feinstein leaves a profound and enduring legacy on so many big issues, from gun safety to reproductive choice, to human rights, to Lake Tahoe and the California Desert.” District 4 Rep. Mike Thompson said that the two worked on a number of projects together, including the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act “that protected hundreds of thousands of acres and will ensure these pristine lands and opportunities for outdoor recreation will be enjoyed for generations to come.”
Feinstein, born June 22, 1933, in San Francisco, served as the mayor of SF for three terms from December 1978 to January 1988. During this time, Feinstein faced turmoil, including the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk. Feinstein then succeeded Moscone as the mayor, serving as the first woman in that position.
Before becoming a U.S. senator, Feinstein unsuccessfully ran for governor of California in 1990.
Feinstein had a storied political career that broke gender barriers as she rose from San Francisco’s City Hall to leadership posts in the U.S. Senate. She played key roles in political battles over issues including reproductive rights and environmental protection, gaining a reputation as a pragmatic centrist.
As a San Francisco native, Feinstein attended and graduated from Stanford University in 1955.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.