Rafu Wire Service and Staff Reports
WASHINGTON — Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992 to become the first woman to represent California in that body, died at her home in Washington, D.C., Thursday night, her chief of staff confirmed Friday. She was 90.
She served three terms as mayor of San Francisco from 1978 to 1988. She was the oldest sitting U.S. senator and member of Congress; the longest-serving U.S. senator from California; the longest-tenured female senator in history; and the senior Democratic member of the Senate. In February, Feinstein announced she would not seek re-election in 2024.
As the head of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Feinstein became mayor following the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk by former Supervisor Dan White in 1978. As a senator, after a gunman killed eight people at 101 California St. in San Francisco in 1993, Feinstein was able to get an assault weapons ban passed in 1994, but it was only in effect for 10 years.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement she was saddened by the passing of Feinstein and called her one of the nation’s great leaders.
“Sen. Feinstein was a trailblazer on whose shoulders I, and women in elected office all across America, will always stand. She worked harder than anyone I knew on Capitol Hill, and she will be remembered as one of the most effective and impactful Senators in American history,” Bass said.
“Sen. Feinstein’s grit and heart enabled her to bring her city together after she was thrust into San Francisco’s mayor’s office in the wake of a horrific tragedy. She saved countless lives through her work to keep assault weapons off of our streets, and she was a patriot who boldly stood against the use of torture and, in doing so, reminded America what we are supposed to stand for. She loved all of California, and led landmark legislation to create Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park and protect millions of acres across our desert landscape representing the largest effort to protect public lands in the lower 48 states.”
Bass said the flags flying at all city facilities will be lowered to half-staff in memory of Feinstein.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) wore a scarf given to her by Feinstein as she addressed the Senate on Friday, paying tribute to her colleague. She recalled Feinstein’s generosity, but also her courage and resolve in her fight against assault weapons.
Hirono served with Feinstein on both the Senate Judiciary Committee and Intelligence Committee. She recalled a meeting of the Judiciary Committee:
“One of the newest members of the Judiciary Committee … chose that hearing to lecture Dianne Feinstein about her advocacy on guns. And I thought this was so untoward against someone who had spent so much of her time fighting for gun safety, but she just said, ‘I have not spent all these years on this committee to be lectured by you,’ which I thought was really quite tactful.
“But later … she took me aside and said, ‘Do you think was I was too mean? Do you think I should apologize?’ All I could think of was ‘Are you kidding?’
“That was Dianne Feinstein. She was old school, she was very kind … That’s one of the things I’ll always remember about Dianne Feinstein, her courage, her integrity, her commitment to public service literally until the very, very end.”
Following are tributes from other AAPI elected officials, past and present.
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside): “I am deeply saddened by the passing of California’s senior senator, the indomitable Dianne Feinstein. Long famed for her bipartisan relationships in the Senate, I know Sen. Feinstein for her intentional work building bipartisan relationships at the local level, particularly throughout the Inland Empire. Her work protecting our water resources and the California desert has been critical to the health of our state and its residents.
“As the first openly gay person from California to serve in Congress, and as someone who was publicly outed in 1994, her leadership was personal to me. Sen. Feinstein was one of only 14 senators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, legislation that denied my community the right to marry. She spent her 30 years in the halls of Congress and decades in the streets of San Francisco taking on bigoted polices and moving the needle on LGBTQI+ equality.
“It is important that we have voices of conscience in our government, leaders that do not shy away from providing accountability to power. As someone who’s family suffered in a time where our nation disregarded its values, I was always gratified by Sen. Feinstein’s work to shine a light on extrajudicial, unethical actions taken during the War on Terror.
“While acting ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I worked with Sen. Feinstein to pass the Veterans Care Agreement and West Los Angeles Leasing Act. We also worked together to successfully block the Trump Administration’s attempts to remove Defense Media Activity from my district, stripping jobs from our state.
“The issues Congress is grappling with now – the realities of drastic climate change, putting an end to the gun violence epidemic, calling out government mismanagement, defending the rights of women – are ones Sen. Feinstein spent decades working to solve. I send my deepest sympathies to Sen. Feinstein’s family, friends, and staff.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena): “Sen. Feinstein was a trailblazer, a proud Californian, and a legislative titan. From banning assault weapons to uncovering human rights abuses by our own government, her legacy is unmatched and her firsts too many to enumerate. May her memory be a blessing.”
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento): “I am heartbroken by the loss of my dear friend Dianne Feinstein. Dianne was a trailblazer, a giant of California politics, and one of the most brilliant legislative minds we have ever known. She was a champion for equality and a fighter who unwaveringly spoke truth to power. Her work empowered the most marginalized and underrepresented Americans. She broke down barriers everywhere she went, but it was her monumental achievements and ability to deliver results that redefined effective leadership.
“A relentless champion of gun safety, LGBTQIA+ rights, the environment, and women’s rights – Dianne was always focused on tackling the nation’s toughest problems. Yet, through it all, she brought her distinctive grace, compassion, and brilliance to every room she entered. Dianne was a special person, an extraordinary American, and I was lucky to call her a close friend.
“We all owe Sen. Dianne Feinstein a debt of gratitude for her public service to our country. My prayers are with all of her family and friends during this difficult time. Dianne will truly be missed.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles): “California and the country lost a barrier-breaker and an icon. Through grit, grace and incredible intelligence, she succeeded in politics at a time when few women could. She paved the way for a historic number of women to have a seat at the table and a voice in Congress.
“I am grateful to have known Sen. Feinstein. It was an honor and a privilege to have worked with her on many issues impacting Californians — including helping our veterans. She had an incredible career guided by a love of our country and American values. We’re a better nation because of her leadership.
“I join her family, friends and our country in mourning her.”
Rep. Young Kim (R-Mission Viejo): “Sen. Dianne Feinstein spent her career serving her community, defying odds, and blazing trails for future generations. Despite our policy differences, I respect her service and willingness to work across the aisle. My heart is with her loved ones and team as we remember her legacy.”
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Santa Clara): “I am sorry to hear about Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s passing. She had an extraordinary career and was a true trailblazer. Her legacy will live on through her work as a key player in passing landmark bills on gun reform, LGBTQ+ rights, and combating deadly wildfires and droughts in California. This is very sad news and my thoughts are with her family and loved ones.” (Khanna had called on Feinstein to step down before the end of her term due to her declining health.)
Rep. Ami Bera (D-Sacramento): “For the past several decades, California has been blessed by the public service and leadership of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Sen. Feinstein’s career inspired multiple generations to take action against violence and injustice in the United States and around the world. She has left a legacy that will serve as the standard for Californians and all Americans to strive for.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Sen. Feinstein’s family and close friends at this time.”
Michael Yaki, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: “We have lost one of the great ones. A pioneer and role model for women in politics, a person of courage and integrity, who took on the NRA and won, protected our desert, exposed human rights abuses … and as a friend, a terrible loss.” (Yaki is a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and former aide to Rep. Nancy Pelosi.)
Former State Controller Betty Yee: “A giant has left us. I will always remember how she led a grieving San Francisco after the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. May Sen. Feinstein rest peacefully now.”
Former San Francisco Board of Education member Emily Murase: “The passing of Sen. Dianne Feinstein last night is a deep loss to our city, our state, and our nation. She was my role model as a pioneering woman leader who blazed a trail for many of us to follow. May she rest in peace.”