Feinstein, Senate’s longest serving woman, dead at 90

The death of California’s senior senator sparks a fight over Gov. Gavin Newsom’s appointment and throws a 2024 battle for the seat into chaos.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the oldest member and longest-serving senator from California, has passed away at the age of 90.

Driving the news:The San Francisco native struggled mightily in her final term with health issues, forcing her to plan to planned to retire at the end of her current term in 2024.


  • Concerns about Feinstein’s mental fitness and declining popularity arose in her final years in office, and she announced that she would not seek reelection in 2024.

The big picture: Feinstein’s death leaves her Senate seat vacant, requiring Governor Gavin Newsom to appoint a temporary successor.

  • The appointment, unsurprisingly will jolt a highly-competitive battle for the seat among three California lawmakers – Reps. Adam Schiff (D–Pasadena), Katie Porter (D–Irvine) and Barbara Lee (D–Oakland) into chaos.

A life serving: She made history as the first woman to become president of San Francisco’s board of supervisors in 1978, and later served as acting mayor after the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.

  • Feinstein’s political career continued on a national level when she won a special election to become California’s first female senator in 1992, alongside Barbara Boxer, making California the first state with two women senators.
  • Feinstein’s legislative accomplishments included the 1994 assault weapons ban, protection of California’s desert areas, and the delivery of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA detention and interrogation in 2012 as chair of the committee.
  • Over time, Feinstein’s centrist stance and reputation as a political moderate became less popular as California’s political landscape shifted towards more progressive views.
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