Dianne Feinstein
Dianne Feinstein, official Senate photo 2


June 22, 1933 (age 79)



Notable for

Mayor of San Francisco (1978–88)
Senator of California (1992–)

Dianne Goldman Berman Feinstein is a Democratic Party politician currently serving as the senior United States Senator from California. A San Francisco native, she previously served as the Mayor of San Francisco from 1978 to 1988.

Feinsten was born and raised in San Francisco, and she graduated from Stanford University. She was a city government worker in the 1960s before being elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1970. She became the board’s first female president in 1978. That year, Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated, and Feinsten succeeded the late Moscone as Mayor of San Francisco.

Serving as Mayor until 1988, Feinsten unsuccessfully ran for Governor of California in 1990, and later was elected Senator of California in 1992. She and Barbara Boxer, with whom she was elected, became the first female Senators from California. She continues to serve as the senior Senator of California.


Early life and careerEdit

Dianne Emiel Goldman was born on June 22, 1933 in San Francisco. Her parents were Betty and Leon Goldman. She attended Convent of the Sacred Heart High School in 1951 and went on to attend Stanford University, where she graduated in 1955 with a degree in history.

Feinsten began her career in politics in 1961, when she worked to end housing discrimination in San Francisco. She was appointed by Governor Pat Brown to serve as a member of the California Women’s Parole Board, while also working as a fellow at the Coro Foundation in the city.

Board of SupervisorsEdit

In 1969, Feinstein was elected as a member of the city Board of Supervisors. During her nine year tenure, she ran two unsuccessful campaigns for mayor in 1971 and 1975. In 1978, she was elected as President of the Board of Supervisors.

Feinstein was serving as president of the board on November 27, 1978 when Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated by former supervisor Dan White. Feinstein was inside City Hall at the time and was the first to discover Milk’s body, having heard the gunshots from nearby. Feinstein spoke at a news conference letter in the day and announced the assassinations, leading to shock across the country. Footage of her announcement was used in the 1984 documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, as well as the 2008 film Milk starring Sean Penn.

Mayor of San FranciscoEdit

Mayor Diane Feinstein Cable Car

Feinstein rides on one of the city's cable cars while mayor.

Due to her position as President of the Board of Supervisors at the time of Moscone’s death, Feinsten became Mayor of San Francisco on December 4, 1978. She served for the remainder of Moscone’s term before being elected to her own term as mayor in 1979. She was re-elected in 1983, serving until 1988.

As mayor, Feinstein tackled the broken state of the cable car system. Feinstein pushed the city to rebuild the system, based on an engineering evaluation, and was instrumental in having federal funding earmarked for the city to pay for most of the repair efforts. The system was shut down from 1982 to 1984, when it was completed in time for the city to host the 1984 Democratic National Convention. Feinstein also took other infrastructure initiatives by seeking to increase the number of the city’s high rise buildings.

Feinstein’s tenure as mayor generally saw her take moderate Democratic positions, despite the city being one of the most liberal in the country, and this was likely due to further statewide ambitions beyond her mayoralty. These positions were also part of her social policies. The LGBT community was outraged that she declined to march in a gay rights parade, and Feinstein also vetoed domestic partnership legislation for the city. Such legislation would have given domestic partnership rights to the city’s LGBT couples.

During the 1980 presidential election, Feinstein supported the re-election efforts of President Jimmy Carter and Vice-President Walter Mondale, despite most Bay Area Democrats supporting Senator Ted Kennedy’s Democratic primary challenge. She spoke at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. Four years later, when former Vice-President Walter Mondale was nominated as the Democratic challenger to Republican President Ronald Reagan, who had beaten the Carter-Mondale ticket in 1980, there was increased speculation that Feinstein would be selected as Mondale’s running mate. Mondale instead chose Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro, the first female nominee on a major party ticket.

That same year, Feinstein proposed gun control legislation that would have banned handguns in the city. A recall election was held as a result of her gun control proposal, but she won the election and served the remainder of her second term until 1988.

A 1987 City and State magazine article named Feinstein as the nation’s "Most Effective Mayor."


Feinstein unsuccessfully campaigned for Governor of California in 1990. She successfully won the Democratic Party nomination, and she faced Republican Senator Pete Wilson during the general election. Wilson won the election, garnering 49.2% to Feinstein’s 45.8%. Two years later, Feinstein was fined $190,000 for failing to properly report contributions to her gubernatorial campaign, as well as associated campaign expenditures.

Senatorial careerEdit

In 1992, Feinstein was elected in a special election to serve in the Senate seat vacated by Pete Wilson one year earlier, when he resigned to become Governor of California. The special election was held on the same day as the national elections, and Barbara Boxer was elected the same day, making both Feinstein and Boxer the first female Senators from California. Because Feinstein was elected in a special election, she took office one week after the election. This made Feinstein the senior Senator of California, despite being elected at the same time as Boxer. Feinstein successfully ran for re-election in 1994, 2000, and 2006, and she is currently running for a fourth full term. She is twenty-second in terms of Senate seniority.

Feinsten currently serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and she chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. She also serves on the Judiciary Committee, the Committee and Rules and Administration, and she is the Chairwoman of the Select Committee on Intelligence.

Recent policy positions include a vote for the extension of the PATRIOT Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provisions. She also proposed, along with Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the elimination of the ethanol tax credit in an effort to remove it as a contributor to the increasing American debt. In 2011, Feinstein became a co-sponsor of the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). According to a spokesperson, Feinstein worked to ensure balanced legislation that protects intellectual property without becoming an overburden on legitimate tech businesses. The bill ultimately died in early 2012 after an Internet-wide protest that included websites such as Wikipedia, Reddit, and Wikia.

2008 presidential electionEdit

Feinstein was a superdelegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, which gave her the ability to vote for one of the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination without the consent of primary voters. Feinstein initially declared Senator Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the nomination. Once Senator Barack Obama became the presumptive nominee, however, she endorsed his candidacy.

After the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States, Feinstein chaired the United States Congress Joint Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. She served as the mistress of ceremonies and oversaw Barack Obama’s inauguration on January 20, 2009.

2010 Gubernatorial speculationEdit

In the run-up to the 2010 California gubernatorial election, there was speculation that Feinstein was considering running for the office being vacated by term-limited Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. A 2008 private poll revealed that Feinstein would have a commanding lead over former Governor Jerry Brown, at 50% to 24%. In 2009, 36% of Democrats indicated that they would support Feinstein, followed by Brown at 14% and Gavin Newsom at 9%. She continued to lead in speculation polls, but announced in early 2010 that she would not run for Governor. Jerry Brown was ultimately elected later that year, defeating former eBay President Meg Whitman.

Personal lifeEdit

Feinstein married Jack Berman in 1956. The two had been colleagues in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, and they had a daughter, Katherine, born in 1957. The couple divorced in 1959. Katherine has gone on to be the Presiding Judge of the San Francisco Superior Court.

In 1962, Feinstein married neurosurgeon Bertram Feinstein. He later died of colon cancer in 1978. Three years later, Feinstein married investment banker Richard Blum. Their wealth has made Feinstein the fifth wealthiest senator in 2003. Her net worth was estimated in 2005 as being somewhere between $43 million and $99 million.

External linksEdit

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