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`Trailblazer': Sen. Dianne Feinstein Dies at 90

SAN DIEGO - 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 today. She was 90.

``Sadly, Senator Feinstein passed away last night at her home in Washington, D.C. 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,'' James Sauls, Feinstein's chief of staff, said in a statement.

``Senator Feinstein never backed away from a fight for what was just and right. At the same time, she was always willing to work with anyone, even those she disagreed with, if it meant bettering the lives of Californians or the betterment of our nation.''

President Joe Biden said in a joint statement with First Lady Jill Biden that Feinstein was a pioneering American, ``a true trailblazer. And for Jill and me, a cherished friend.''

``In San Francisco, she showed enormous poise and courage in the wake of tragedy, and became a powerful voice for American values,'' Biden said.

``Serving in the Senate together for more than 15 years, I had a front-row seat to what Dianne was able to accomplish. It's why I recruited her to serve on the Judiciary Committee when I was Chairman -- I knew what she was made of, and I wanted her on our team. There's no better example of her skillful legislating and sheer force of will than when she turned passion into purpose and led the fight to ban assault weapons. Dianne made her mark on everything from national security to the environment to protecting civil liberties. She's made history in so many ways, and our country will benefit from her legacy for generations.

``Often the only woman in the room, Dianne was a role model for so many Americans -- a job she took seriously by mentoring countless public servants, many of whom now serve in my administration. She had an immense impact on younger female leaders for whom she generously opened doors. Dianne was tough, sharp, always prepared, and never pulled a punch, but she was also a kind and loyal friend, and that's what Jill and I will miss the most.''

Feinstein was the senior senator from California and the first of two women eventually elected to the U.S. Senate from California.

``Dianne Feinstein, right from the start, was an icon for women in politics,'' former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told ABC News.

Feinstein was the first woman mayor of San Francisco and the first woman president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

She was born in San Francisco on June 22, 1933, and graduated from Stanford University in 1955.

Feinstein, while serving as a supervisor in San Francisco, ascended to mayor upon the 1978 shooting deaths of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.

After an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 1990, Feinstein was elected to the U.S. Senate for the first time in 1992, becoming the first woman to represent California in the Senate. She was joined just two months later by Barbara Boxer.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria called Feinstein a trailblazer who broke down barriers for women in politics.

``Her career was marked by a tireless commitment and unwavering dedication to the betterment of our nation,'' Gloria said. ``Her advocacy on critical issues such as gun safety, women's rights, environmental protection and healthcare reform reflected her deep concern for the welfare of her fellow Californians and all Americans.

``As a former mayor, Senator Feinstein was always a champion for cities in the Senate. San Diego was fortunate to have her as our representative in Washington, and our city is a better place because of her. Today, San Diego joins the nation in mourning Senator Feinstein's passing, but we are filled with immense gratitude for her service and all she has done for our city, state, and nation. Godspeed, Senator.''

Senate President pro-Tempore Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, offered her thoughts on the Senator's death.

``California -- and our nation -- has lost an incredible leader who dedicated her career and life to public service, and opened doors for women in politics. We are fortunate to have benefited from Senator Feinstein's courage, strength, and governance for so many years -- her legacy is one of a class few can hope to match.''

San Diego County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer cited Feinstein as one of her inspirations to become involved in politics.

``At a young age, I had the honor of meeting Senator Dianne Feinstein and it was a life-changing experience for me. Senator Feinstein built a legacy that will forever be remembered,'' she said. ``We all should take a moment to reflect on the trails she blazed for so many of us to follow and further.

Senator Feinstein will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.''

Feinstein was the first woman to chair the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee. She authored the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994. The legislation, prompted by the 101 California Street shooting, in which a gunman opened fire at a law firm in San Francisco's financial district,

killing eight people, led to a 10-year restriction on the sale and ownership of certain semi-automatic weapons.

``I worked with Republicans and Democrats alike,'' Feinstein said in an interview with CSPAN. ``Ten Republicans along with 46 Democrats voted in favor of the amendment.''

Feinstein has been experiencing health problems in recent years. She was hospitalized with shingles in February when she was 89. That same month, Feinstein announced she would retire from the U.S. Senate when her term was up in 2024.

Feinstein was married three times and had one daughter, Katherine, from her first marriage. She married her third husband, investment banker Richard Blum, in 1980. They were married until his death from cancer in 2022.

Some of her more notable accomplishments in the U.S. Senate include creating a federal coordination of Amber Alerts, passing the California Desert Protection Act, which protected millions of acres of California deserts and created the Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks, reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act and authorized the Respect for Marriage Act in 2022 to ensure marriage equality into federal law.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

 

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