California Senator Dianne Feinstein Announces She Won’t Run for Reelection

California Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein said on Tuesday that she won’t seek reelection in 2024.

The senator turns 90 in June and is the oldest member of the Senate. In recent years, she has faced questions about her memory and cognitive health, though she has staunchly defended her effectiveness in representing her state, home to almost 40 million residents.

Feinstein’s announcement came after several high-ranking California Democrats, including U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff and Katie Porter, had already declared their campaigns for Senate. Feinstein, a 30-year Senate veteran, has not had wide-open competition for her seat in several decades.

Senator Feinstein plans to remain in her seat through the end of her current term. When speaking to reporters in Washington on Tuesday, she said, “there’s times for all things under the sun. I think that will be the right time, towards the end of next year.”

Feinstein is one of the only remaining senate veterans from the so-called Year of the Woman, which referred to several women elected during the 1992 election to the male-dominated chamber. Before she moved to Washington, Feinstein was already one of the most prominent women in U.S. politics.

The now-senator was the first woman to serve as president of the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco in the 1970s and was the first woman mayor of San Francisco. Feinstein ascended to the position after the November 1978 assassinations of City Supervisor Harvey Milk and then-Mayor George Moscone by Dan White, a former supervisor. Feinstein is the person who found Milk’s body.

While serving in the Senate, Feinstein was the first woman to lead the Senate Intelligence Committee and the first woman to serve as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. She had a reputation as a no-nonsense centrist who left her stamp on political battles over issues ranging from environmental protection to reproductive rights.

Feinstein was known for reaching out to GOP members to find the middle ground. Recently, her cooperation has irked some Democrat Party members as the party has moved increasingly to the left.

During her last reelection campaign in 2019, the California Democratic Party endorsed her liberal rival for the seat, with some Democrats complaining Feinstein hadn’t stood strong enough for immigrants and had been in Washington too long.

Feinstein also drew ire from liberals when in the 2020 confirmation hearings for Justice Amy Coney Barrett, she closed out the hearings by praising Republican Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham for a job well done and embracing him.

Liberal groups that had vehemently opposed Barrett’s nomination to replace the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg were furious and, in turn, called for the senator to step down from committee leadership. About a month later, Feinstein said that although she would remain on the Judiciary Committee, she would step down as the top Democrat on that committee.

High praise for soon-to-retire Senator Feinstein on Capitol Hill

However, the tension was forgotten on Tuesday on Capitol Hill, where Democrats praised Feinstein’s long career. At a private lunch for Democratic senators, lawmakers broke out in applause after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Feinstein’s decision.

“She’s a legend,” said Schumer later to reporters. “A legend in California as the first woman senator; a legend in this Senate. She was the leader on so many different issues, assault weapons, environment, women’s rights, and so much else. She approached everything studiously and carefully.”

During the lunch, Feinstein told her colleagues how difficult her husband’s death was and that she was ready to step away from public life after completing this term, according to Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren. Richard Blum, Feinstein’s husband, died last year.

“Senator Feinstein made history,” Warren said. “She changed this country, and she was a woman on the front lines in the fights, like access to assault weapons and national security and intelligence.”

“Every other woman in public office owes a special debt to Dianne Feinstein,” Warren added.

In her home state of California, where Feinstein is the longest-serving senator, she was feted for her long tenure in public service.

Former Speaker of the House, Democrat Representative Nancy Pelosi, called Feinstein “a titan” of the Senate, whose accomplishments include securing billions of federal dollars for California for environmental protection. Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom said Feinstein was a mentor and credited her with “blazing a trail for a new generation of female lawmakers.”