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Feinstein Chief Media Strategist Bill Carrick Recalls Three Decades with California's Senior Senator

In November 1989, Bill Carrick sat at a desk in the study of Dianne Feinstein's mansion in San Francisco's exclusive Presidio Terrace neighborhood, rummaging through files of her career in local government.

"Bill, come and look -- this is it!" he suddenly heard his then-partner holler from the other room.

What excited his colleague, Carrick later recalled, was TV news footage from Nov. 27, 1978, of the moments when then-Supervisor Feinstein announced to the world the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.

The two political consultants had recently been hired to rejuvenate Feinstein's floundering campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor, and it didn't take them long to transform the dramatic footage into a 30-second ad -- which became known in political circles as "The Grabber" -- that propelled the former mayor ahead in the primary, and into the November 1990 general election.

Feinstein became the first woman to win a major party gubernatorial nomination in California history and, although she eventually lost to Republican Pete Wilson, the race positioned her to win a seat in the U.S. Senate two years later -- and re-election every six years, five times after.

Feinstein, who died last week at 90, rewarded Carrick for that early success with her personal and political trust, and he remained her chief campaign strategist for the rest of her life.

In a conversation with Newsmakers last week, a few hours after the announcement of Feinstein's death, Carrick recounted that first campaign, and many others that followed.

Carrick said that although Feinstein was a thoroughly political figure, there was little artifice about her: she was the same person in private as in her public persona, she didn't need polls or focus groups to decide what she thought on issues, and it was always clear that consultants worked for her, not the other way around, which often seems the case with pre-packaged candidates that litter the political landscape today.


You can watch our interview with Bill Carrick on YouTube below, or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here. TVSB, Cox Cable Channel 17, airs the show at 8 p.m. every weeknight and at 9 a.m. on weekends. KCSB, 91.9 FM, broadcasts the program at 5:30 p.m.

Images: Frame grab from NBC News report about California's 1990 race for governor (NBC); "The Grabber" ad from Dianne Feinstein's campaign for governor that year (TV Uber).

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