Decision ’94 / SPECIAL GUIDE TO CALIFORNIA’S ELECTIONS : U.S. Senate : THE DEMOCRAT: DIANNE FEINSTEIN
DIANNE FEINSTEIN, Democrat
* Born: June 22, 1933, San Francisco
* Residence: San Francisco
* Current position: U.S. senator
* Education: Bachelor’s degree, Stanford University
* Career highlights: California Women’s Parole Board, 1960-66; San Francisco Board of Supervisors, 1970-78; mayor of San Francisco, 1978-88.
* Family: Husband, Richard Blum; one daughter and three stepdaughters.
Dianne Feinstein, 61, was raised in San Francisco’s Presidio neighborhood, a third-generation resident of San Francisco and the oldest daughter of a noted surgeon, Leon Goldman. Her childhood was difficult, as told in a biography released this fall by San Francisco Chronicle writer Jerry Roberts. Feinstein’s mother was an abusive alcoholic. The family would eventually learn that Betty Rosenburg, the daughter of Russian immigrants, suffered from a brain disorder that was not diagnosed for years.
Feinstein attended public schools until she was a teen-ager and became the first Jewish student to attend Convent of the Sacred Heart High School. She moved on to Stanford, where she was a student leader.
After college, she served in a Coro fellowship at the San Francisco district attorney’s office. There, Feinstein met her first husband, a prosecutor named Jack Berman. Together they had a daughter, Katherine. The marriage ended in divorce in 1959.
Feinstein was a young single mother when she became active in politics, working on John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign and attending civil rights marches, including one at a housing subdivision where a prominent black attorney named Willie Brown was denied access to view a model home.
Barely a year later, Feinstein was asked by Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Sr. to serve on the parole board. The five members of the parole board had the duty of setting the actual terms served by women prisoners. Feinstein served on the board until 1966, a tenure that each of her Republican statewide opponents have exploited by noting how many violent criminals she voted to release on parole.
Feinstein married her second husband, Bertram Feinstein, a neurosurgeon, in 1962.
By the end of the decade, Feinstein was preparing to run for her first elected office. She ran in 1969 for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and won. Feinstein was also the election’s top vote-getter, automatically becoming board president.
Emboldened by her success, Feinstein launched a bid to unseat Mayor Joseph Alioto in 1971. She was badly beaten and lost a second campaign for mayor in 1975.
In 1978, shortly after her second husband died of cancer, Feinstein considered ending her political career. But tragedy propelled her into the spotlight. A disgruntled former county supervisor, Dan White, walked into City Hall with a revolver and assassinated Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.
As president of the Board of Supervisors, Feinstein became acting mayor. And in the subsequent months, she received praise from throughout the city for her handling of a difficult time. In 1979, Feinstein launched her third campaign for mayor and won.
Feinstein married Richard Blum, an investment banker, in 1980.
Feinstein’s highlights in her first term as mayor included an increase in the police force and attention to public transportation. She was also the subject of an unsuccessful recall attempt launched by a group opposed to her support of handgun control.
Feinstein won reelection as mayor in 1983 and in her second term fought for money to rehabilitate the city’s cable car system and to form a plan for downtown development that was a compromise between builders and preservation groups.
Feinstein left office in 1987, still popular, but prevented by city law from seeking a third term. She was considered, but not chosen, to be running mate to the Democratic presidential nominee in 1988, Walter Mondale.
After Feinstein left the mayor’s office, her successors found the city strapped by a $180-million debt. The problem became a major issue when she ran for governor in 1990, defeating state Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp in the Democratic primary before losing to U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson.
Feinstein won her second attempt at statewide office in 1992 by unseating GOP Sen. John Seymour, Wilson’s appointed replacement. Feinstein is serving the two years remaining in Wilson’s Senate term.
Her two years as a senator have been regarded as extraordinarily successful for a freshman senator. Feinstein quickly established herself as a player in an institution that expects newcomers to remain on the sidelines. She worked on two high-profile committees and latched on to hundreds of millions of new federal dollars for California.
Feinstein amended the 1994 crime bill to include a ban on the future manufacture, sale and possession of 19 types of military-style assault weapons and she steered the sweeping California Desert Protection Act through Congress.
Promises / Goals
If reelected senator, Dianne Feinstein has vowed to:
* Seek growth in the nation’s economy with small-business loans and tax credits to encourage investment in new businesses, urban cores, research and new equipment. She would also seek retraining for former defense workers and she supports the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs to spur American involvement in the global marketplace.
* Help make the nation safer with gun laws that stop the sale of assault weapons and large ammunition magazines, require a waiting period for handgun purchases and expel students for a year if they are caught with a gun. She also would fight for California’s share of funding in the $30-billion crime bill and she would vote for judges who support the death penalty.
* Support the Endangered Species Act, but change it to recognize deleterious effects on farmers and businesses.
* Stop the flood of illegal immigration by providing money for more guards and equipment at the border, toughening laws on smugglers of illegal immigrants, creating a tamper-proof identification card and adding more inspectors to enforce employer sanctions.
The Speech: In Her Own Words
* Excerpts from a speech delivered Sept. 24 in San Francisco to a group of women supporters.
Californians have suffered through many tragedies. Fires, floods, earthquakes, but worst, I believe, than any natural disaster would be Michael Huffington. . . . What you’re seeing in this race is really the need for campaign spending (reform). If Michael Huffington were Michael Huffington who had earned an amount of money that didn’t give him the ability to have . . . $30 million cash in hand (and) we went toe-to-toe and record-to-record, it would not be a contest . . . .
I have watched as I try to work hard in the Senate, month after month, as the television blitz, the newspaper full-page ads, the radio commercials go on and our poll numbers drop. And (I) see the whole Willie Horton crowd come back again, filled with character assassination, distortion and just plain out-and-out lies. And (I do) not have the ability to respond, because . . . each response is about $2 million for enough points to really break through. And so it’s been an incredibly frustrating race.
And as . . . I try and perform on the Appropriations Committee . . . as I sit on the HUD, VA subcommittee . . . does anybody really care about this? As we fight for (money) for the education of poor children, and changing formulas, which in the Senate is controlled by small states and the Western states in particular (don’t) get their fair share. As we try to change this, you begin to wonder doesn’t anyone really care? Does it count for anything. . . ?
I first became very concerned about assault weapons (when) I read in the newspaper about someone walking in with a series of weapons, one of them an Uzi, into a McDonald’s drive-in in San Ysidro and killing 29 people. . . . And then a drifter . . . with an AK-47 walks into a Stockton schoolyard and kills five children and wounds 29. No reason. He did it. And then a little over a year ago, in one of San Francisco’s pristine protected towers, office building towers, 101 California St. . . . an aggrieved law client walks in and just kills . . . .
It was the incident that really said, “By God, I may go down, but I’m going to try to make a difference.” . . . Assault weapons--a special type of weapon which is made with a very hair-trigger, able to be fired mainly from the waist, to spray fire, able to hold very large clips, able to pump out bullets very rapidly--will not remain in a cache anywhere in America. . . . And . . . in the legislation (that I authored), the clips or strips of more than 10 bullets will no longer be manufactured, sold or transferred for civilian use in the United States of America.
When I went to Washington, many of you hear a lot about PACs, and everybody says, “Oh the big lobbyists, there’s big business, big labor, and big environment.” Let me tell you something, the strongest, most powerful lobby in the United States of America is big guns--the National Rifle Assn. And don’t let anybody tell you that they’re not involved in my opponent’s campaign . . . they are out there. . . . Those of us who believe that not only must we be a tough law-and-order community, not only must we put police on our streets and do what we need to do with drugs and the gangs and prevention programs, but we also must have reasonable and respectful use of weapons in this country. We’ve become automatic enemies of the National Rifle Assn. . . .
I want to speak about another thing, and that is the Desert Protection Act. . . . It is an outright partisanship fight. . . . And one of the things that I have found, I’ve never been in the Senate when Republicans are in power, but I can tell you that the lust for the White House is all-consuming. The ability for them to defeat Democrats and deny them programs is all-consuming. Right now, the United States Senate is in gridlock. They have said that nothing will pass in the remaining weeks. . . .
Let me tell you a little bit about what I see coming in the future for California. Where I see this race. Essentially what this race is between is someone who’s a native Californian who grew up here . . . and someone who’s essentially coming from Texas in 1988 maintaining a shared residency in Texas because he sold his company in 1990 and did not want to pay anywhere from $5 million to $10 million in California taxes. What this race is all about is someone who has performed in the United States Senate (versus) someone who has spoken a total of eight minutes on the floor of the House of Representatives. His only piece of legislation introduced is to give rich people more deductions for charitable contributions.
The difference is (between) someone who serves on the Agriculture or Appropriations Committee because the state is the largest (agriculture) producer, (someone) who has fought for programs to prevent the Medfly so urban areas don’t need to be sprayed with malathion . . . (running against) someone who says, “My great uncle was a farmer, I have a cowboy hat and a belt buckle and I’m for agriculture.” And then he votes against all these programs in the House of Representatives.
What this race is (about) is someone who has supported the (abortion rights position on) the access to clinics act . . . versus somebody who opposed the access to clinics act and, according to NARAL (the National Abortion Rights Action League), whose voting record on choice is 20%. What this race is all about is someone who’s tried to protect California’s defense industry, who has testified to the FA-18, for the C-17, for the B-2 because they’re important militarily and, secondly, because they produce jobs versus someone who has voted against every defense authorization and appropriations bill because he says they cut too much. And then he attacks me because I voted for them by saying I am anti-defense. If everybody voted as he did, there would be not one soldier, not one aircraft carrier, not one fighter plane, not one program for defense existing in the United States.
. . . If you have $30 million and are willing to spend it, you can go out there and practice distortion, lies and character assassination and get away with it. Because unless you can match that $2-million buy, you can’t prove it isn’t true.
That’s why, this week, we will set in motion . . . a truth squad. . . . to go forward and say these are distortions, these are lies.