Dianne Feinstein remembered as political icon, but also with personal stories

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein's granddaughter Eileen Feinstein Mariano stand as mourners gather at the San Francisco City Hall for a memorial service for the late U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein who died on September 29 at the age of 90, in San Francisco, California, U.S., October 5, 2023. REUTERS/Carlos Barria REFILE - CORRECTING FROM "HOUSE SPEAKER" TO "REPRESENTATIVE"

A California political who’s who gathered Thursday to honor Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose unexpected death last week could reshape next year’s election.

Members of Congress — including Reps. Barbara Lee and Adam Schiff, who are running to succeed Feinstein — flew from Washington, D.C., with Vice President Kamala Harris on Air Force Two to be present.  

During the unseasonably warm afternoon outside San Francisco City Hall, the handful of speakers — interrupted intermittently by U.S. Navy Blue Angels flying overhead — called her a trailblazer for women and spoke of her integrity. 

But it may be the more personal remembrances that those sitting in the audience will take away from the roughly one-hour service.   

  • Vice President Kamala Harris: Feinstein “invited me to her Senate hideaway. There, with one hand, she presented me with a glass of California Chardonnay, and with the other hand, a binder full of her draft bills. And true to her mayoral roots, she was deeply immersed in the details of each bill…”
  • Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “She cultivated relationships, bringing people together: officially, personally and romantically. You know that Dianne was a matchmaker…. And Dianne cultivated flowers. She loved flowers, she’d grow them, to show them, to paint them and share them on drawings and on mugs. Anybody here have a Dianne mug?”
  • Eileen Mariano, Feinstein’s granddaughter: “She would also say to me, ‘If you ever go out of town, no matter where you’re going — doesn’t matter if you’re going to a city or the desert or a beach or the mountains — always pack a black pantsuit. There is no occasion to which you can’t wear a black pantsuit.’”

The 1,500 guests included Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Gov. Jerry Brown, U.S. senators, “more than a dozen” members of Congress, state senators, city supervisors and others, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Former San Francisco mayors were also in attendance, including Willie Brown who told KCRA on Wednesday that his “only shot at heaven” was Feinstein “making the case.”

She served more than three decades in the U.S. Senate, and her death set off a flurry of political questions — mostly, who would be the one to immediately assume her seat as Democratic Reps. Lee, Schiff and Katie Porter have already been campaigning aggressively to be her successor.  

Faced with intense public pressure to appoint a Black woman to the job — in part due to his own comments in 2020 that he wanted to do so — the governor announced Sunday that EMILYs List President Laphonza Butler would replace Feinstein and is free to run a full term afterward. 

Butler, who also attended the memorial, is the first openly LGBTQ+ person and the second Black woman to represent California in the Senate. She has said she would wait until after the service to announce whether she will join the crowded field of candidates running for Senate next year. To give her some more time, the California Democratic Party announced Wednesday that it is extending its deadline to seek its endorsement from Oct. 13 to Oct. 27.

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