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Decision '94 / SPECIAL GUIDE TO CALIFORNIA'S ELECTIONS : U.S. Senate : THE DEMOCRAT: DIANNE FEINSTEIN

October 30, 1994

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.

Background

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.

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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:

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