SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Photos surrounding his office paint a picture of many years in state politics for the Democratic party serving in the house, senate and as chairman of the Democrats.

Politics, John Burton said, is in his blood, much like his good friend of decades, Dianne Feinstein.

What You Need To Know

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced her retirement from U.S. Senate after first winning her seat in 1992

  • One of her first political positions was on the board of supervisors in San Francisco in the 1970s

  • Feinstein was appointed mayor of San Francisco in 1978 after the assassination of Mayor George Moscone

  • She has been heralded for being a trailblazer for women in politics and for her strong work on gun reform

A person Burton said conjures many words to describe her.

“Strong, stubborn and smart,” he said.

All things Burton said helped Sen. Feinstein in one of her first political positions on the board of supervisors in San Francisco. Eventually, Feinstein would become mayor with the tragic murders of supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Burton said it was no mean feat for Feinstein to hold the city together during that time.

“There were some riots in the gay community and then also when the court trial against his killer, Dan White, came out with a flakey verdict. She moved in and saved the city during a time of real, real, crisis,” he said.

Sen. Feinstein would go on to be one of the longest serving senators for the country. Only recently announcing she would not run again after her current term finishes at the end of 2024.

Her longtime campaign manager Bill Carrick said her longevity since being elected in 1992, owes a lot to her being as he said a “retail politician.” Someone who campaigns out in the community.

He also equates her longevity to her political acumen, surprising Carrick with a decision on how to win votes in the South of the state when running for governor in the early 90s.

“She called me up and says you know I’ve been thinking maybe I should get an apartment in LA and move down there, spend at least half my time there. She knew she would have the votes in San Francisco tied up. So, she got an apartment in century city, moved in, and not only kept it through the governor’s race, but then she subsequently ran for the senate two years later. She had a place in LA all that time,” Carrick said.

Sen. Feinstein has been heralded for being a trailblazer for women in politics and for her strong work on gun reform, holding the CIA accountable and work on environmental issues.

In the last few years her ability to do the job has been in question given her age of 89. Political experts like Jason McDaniel, who’s taught at San Francisco State University since 2009, said she may not have her fast ball anymore but she is more than capable.

“I think it is a slight tarnishing of her legacy. There were some moments in these last couple of years that I would rather have not seen, but I don’t think they rose to the level of a real embarrassment. This will be noted in discussions of her career, but I don’t think it will be the number one thing. And I would also say it’s important [to note], the legacy of the U.S. Senate, predominantly men, very old, you know open secrets of being almost incapable of doing the job, being wheeled out onto the senate floor ... so this is not exactly an unusual thing [her age].”

McDaniel said he is also not a beliver in term limits for U.S. senators. 

"I think you'll find it very hard to find a political scientist that thinks term limits for senate legislators to be a good idea. It will give power to entrenched interest groups rather than an elected representative, and will also shift power towards the presidency," he said. 

For Burton, he’s been out of politics for several years and said it’s tough for people with a passion for it like he and Feinstein.

“It’s tough, it’s a fever in the blood. You get it and you can’t let it go,” he said.

Burton said though, Feinstein knows and can walk away proud of what she did for her country, and is still doing, and for what she has done for others coming up through the ranks.