Dianne Feinstein is California's accidental senator.
Analyzing Feinstein's assent to the U.S. Senate, one can track a series of unsuccessful election efforts early in her career that, through one strange political event after another, ultimately landed her where she is today: a two-term Democratic incumbent seeking re-election against Republican challenger and former state Sen. Dick Mountjoy.
Nearly 40 years ago, Feinstein won a position on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors where she remained for nine years. Feinstein eventually became the board's first female president.
During her tenure, Feinstein lost two elections for San Francisco mayor. In 1971, sitting Mayor Joseph Alioto defeated her. And again in 1975, Feinstein lost a race for a runoff slot to challenge Mayor George Moscone.
But when Moscone was assassinated in 1978, Feinstein automatically became San Francisco's new mayor.
After being re-elected mayor twice, Feinstein made an unsuccessful bid in 1990 for California governor losing to Pete Wilson.
Then, in 1992, Feinstein won a special election for the Senate and has been re-elected in 1994 and 2000.
Summing up, Feinstein has had mixed success in persuading voters.
Feinstein has other liabilities:
• Married to investment banker Richard Blum, the couple's personal net worth is estimated between $35 and $50 million. She is among the top five wealthiest senators. With only 35 percent of the public approving the Senate's performance and so many working class Americans struggling, voter sympathy may not lie with ultra-rich candidates like Feinstein.
• The Center for Public Integrity reported that Feinstein and Blum have made millions of dollars from Iraq and Afghanistan contracts through his company, Perini.
• Other critics argue that Feinstein's support of China-friendly policies is the result of Blum's extensive China-related business holdings.
• If Feinstein prevails in November, she will have served 20 years in the Senate by the end of her third term. Many think that's too long.
• Finally and most damning for Feinstein is that she has not been a very effective Senator. On the hot button issue of immigration and non-immigrant work visas, Feinstein has been a disaster.
Feinstein voted "Yea" on S.2611, the recent controversial amnesty/guest worker Senate program enthusiastically supported by President Bush.
According to a June report by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies, "Amnesty Under Hagel-Martinez: An Estimate of How Many Will Legalize if S. 2611 Becomes Law," a minimum of 10 million illegal aliens would receive amnesty and another 4.4 million family members of illegal aliens living outside of the U.S. would join their legalized relatives.
And, according to an analysis of S. 2611 made by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Feinstein's vote potentially approved 217 million new legal residents in America (a number equal to 66 percent of the current U.S. population of 295 million people) over the next 20 years by creating new work visas and raising the caps on existing visas.
In short, Feinstein's record, especially as it pertains to the all-important topic of immigration, gives challenger Mountjoy reason to hope.
Mountjoy, listed on the ballot as an immigration control consultant, should go for Feinstein's jugular.
Now all but officially dead, S. 2611 was widely criticized on talk radio and on the Internet as being loosely written legislation that would open borders and radically change America's demographics. Nothing out of Washington, D.C. in recent history angered Americans more than S. 2611.
As a co-author of Proposition 187, the 1994 initiative that would have denied most state services to illegal aliens, Mountjoy should make hay out of that.
Mountjoy, with nothing to lose, must run an aggressive, all-out attack style campaign.
And if Mountjoy needs motivation, he should recall the 2004 pounding Sen. Barbara Boxer gave former GOP Secretary of State Bill Jones when Jones ran a lukewarm campaign.
A similar drubbing may await Mountjoy if he doesn't take the fight to Feinstein.
Joe Guzzardi, an instructor at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First published: Saturday, June 24, 2006