Dianne Feinsteinthe oldest member of the U.S. Senate and the longest-serving senator from Californiahas passed away at age 90.
Feinstein had planned to retire at the end of her 2024 term, according to CNBC.
Shecast her last vote in the Senate on Sept. 28, per CBS News.
After two failed attempts to become mayor of San Francisco, Feinstein was elected president of San Francisco's board of supervisors in 1978, becoming the first woman to hold the title. Feinstein was made acting mayor of the city later that year, after then-Mayor George Moscone and board colleague Harvey Milk were assassinated.
Feinstein lost a gubernatorial bid in 1990; however, two years later, she won a special election to the U.S. Senate, becoming California's first female senator. Among her major accomplishments in the U.S. Senate was writing the 1994 assault weapons ban that then-President Bill Clinton signed. (The ban expired 10 years later, during the administration of George W. Bush.)
However, in the past year, Feinstein had faced questions about her mental acuity. A 2022 report from the San Francisco Chronicle featured unnamed Democratic colleagues expressing concern over her reputed mental decline. Also, Feinstein was absent from the Senate for about three months earlier this year due to a bout with shingles and complications related to the virus.
Feinstein was considered a Democratic centrista stance that had won her many fans throughout the years but was eventually seen as out of step with progressives. However, she was a staunch ally of the LGBTQ+ community. Among other things, she opposed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and still championed LGBTQ+ service members after the policy was repealed in 2011; voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA); and co-sponsored the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which would ban discrimination against would-be foster parents and adoptive parents based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to her official website. She also was one of only 14 senators to oppose the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom can appoint a replacement until the 2024 election; several prominent Democrats had already announced their intentions to run to succeed Feinstein.
On social media, tributes poured in. Out gay actor George Takei (Star Trek) wrote on X (formerly Twitter), "The senior senator of my home state of California, Dianne Feinstein, has passed away at age 90. She was a trailblazer and a leading advocate for an assault weapons ban. May she rest in peace, and may her memory be a blessing." Hillary Clinton stated, "I'm deeply saddened by the passing of Dianne Feinstein. She blazed trails for women in politics and found a life's calling in public service. I'll miss her greatly as a friend and colleague and send my condolences to all who loved her."