‘Trailblazing’ California Senator Dianne Feinstein Has Passed Away at Age 90

By The Stream Published on September 29, 2023

“She’s a legend. A legend in California as the first woman senator. A legend in the Senate. She was the leader on so many different issues.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer describing long-time Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. 

Senator Feinstein has passed away at the age of 90. Feinstein  had been in poor health for years, and was missing from the Senate for months earlier this year due to a battle with shingles. Yet despite her clear signs of dementia and growing physical infirmary, Feinstein doggedly kept at her job until the end. Fox News reports she was present in the Senate Wednesday and is recorded as casting a vote Wednesday morning, but missed Senate votes in the afternoon.

This morning, per tradition, her Senate desk is draped in black with a vase of white roses.

A Long History in the Senate

First elected in 1992, Feinstein stands as the longest-serving female in Senate history. Though in recent years she had embraced the left, Feinstein had come to Capitol Hill as a moderate Democrat, willing to work across the aisle, and for decades offering a measured and thoughtful presence. As the tributes pouring in from colleagues attest, Feinstein was well respected and admired by her colleagues across the political spectrum, and almost uniformly hailed as a “trailblazer.” 


Feinstein first came to national prominence under tragic circumstances. A County Supervisor in San Francisco, she was elevated to mayor in 1978 after the murder of George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk. She ended up serving for 10 years, reshaping the San Francisco skyline and helping usher the city through the devastation caused by the AIDS crisis. 

Feinstein’s Senate legacy is a historic and storied one, for good and not-so-good. The twilight of her Senate career includes orchestrating Christine Blasey Ford’s disproven allegations against Brett Kavanaugh in a futile effort to destroy his confirmation to the Supreme Court. Feinstein was also a force behind the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, the investigation into the CIA’s use of torture, and the legislation that created the National AMBER Alert System. 

Who Will Replace Her?

With the Senate split and a government shutdown looming, some urgency surrounds the filling of Feinstein’s Senate seat. Under California law, Gov. Gavin Newsom has the power to appoint a lawmaker to fill out the rest of Feinstein’s term, which expires in January 2025. Newsom has said in the past that he had “multiple” replacements in mind should Feinstein retire, and — being more interested in filling boxes than filling the seat with the most qualified person  — vowed to appoint a black woman. 

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Cristina Baker
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