From mayor to ... president? DIANNE FEINSTEIN'S FUTURE
DIANNE FEINSTEIN tilts back in her executive-style chair, laces her fingers behind her neck, and, after a serious moment, erupts into laughter. ``How did being a woman affect my career? Well, I think it helped me to lose two races.'' She can smile now, but back in 1975, ambitions dashed by her second unsuccessful campaign to be San Francisco's chief executive, Dianne Feinstein thought she was simply not electable. Today, as she vacates the mayor's chair after nine years in office, she knows she has defied all conventional political wisdom - even her own.Skip to next paragraph
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``Star quality.'' ``A symbol of the very best in America.'' ``A bright light on the Democratic political landscape.'' Described in glowing terms by Democratic Party movers and shakers, Mayor Feinstein is one of the few city leaders with a national profile.
From an inauspicious start - thrust into the mayor's seat in 1978 after the horrific double murder of Mayor George Moscone and city supervisor Harvey Milk - she has been reelected twice in her own right and triumphed over a recall attempt. In 1984, the year San Francisco served as host to the Democratic National Convention, she was second on Walter Mondale's list of running mates. A crusader for more AIDS funding, a vigorous proponent of job growth, and a self-styled ``entrepreneur of the public sector,'' Mayor Feinstein was named 1987 Mayor of the Year by City and State magazine.
As she looks to the future with an eye on the California governor's mansion, she possesses the knowledge that she is finally her own woman. Even one of the biggest bugaboos for women candidates - fund raising - no longer daunts her.
``Initially, it [fund raising] was a big problem. To be very frank, I'd say a majority of my contributions came out of deference to my father, who was a great surgeon and well respected here,'' Feinstein says of her early candidacies. ``I never thought of this before, but that isn't true now. Now I raise money on my own because of what I stand for. That's a very good feeling.''
Should she decide to run for governor in 1990, Feinstein will need about $4 million for a credible primary campaign.
``She'll have no problem with that,'' says Duane Garrett, financial chief of Mr. Mondale's '84 campaign and Feinstein's new finance consultant. The mayor already has an ``enormous base'' of more than 3,000 contributors, as well as ``great national reach,'' he says. ``As soon as she floated the idea of running for governor, I got over 100 calls from people in at least 15 different states asking how they could help.''
Officially, Feinstein says only that she will spend the next year writing a book, traveling in the Orient with her husband, Richard Blum, and ``speaking out statewide on issues I care about: homelessness, AIDS, education, transit, water policy, economic development.''
But the mayor, who once said on national television that her long-range goal is to be ``the first female chief executive of this country,'' has a blueprint for how a woman can be elected to national office - and the California governorship may well fit the specifications.
Experience as an executive at the state or national level is a key element, says Feinstein.
``A few years in Congress probably won't do it,'' she says. ``Voters will look seriously at women who are governors or women who have been respected on national policy for a long period of time. ... People can look at them and say, `They carry my vision of what this country is all about, and they measure up to my image of what I want my No. 1 national leader to be.'''