Given that Dianne Feinstein has been a fixture in San Francisco politics since the 1970s, you wouldn't think a town hall meeting with California's senior senator before a hometown crowd would matter much. But the election of Donald Trump as president has turned conventional politics upside down.
Since January, town hall gatherings by members of Congress, even in Republican districts, have been dominated by Democrats energized by Trump's stunning victory and threats they perceive from his agenda on health care, immigration, the environment and more.
That's why Sen. Feinstein's free public event Monday on the city's west side could get interesting. Feinstein doesn't hold many question-and-answer events that are as freewheeling and potentially messy as this one. She tends to stick to sessions in controlled public policy-type settings, like recent gatherings sponsored by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the Public Policy Institute of California.
Feinstein appears to be running for re-election to the seat she's held since 1992, and while polls show her popularity remains intact, voters also express concern that she'll be 85 years old on Election Day 2018.
During Feinstein's 25 years in the U.S. Senate, she has earned status and seniority, with seats on the powerful Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees. She has also developed a reputation for collegiality and working across the aisle, often co-sponsoring legislation with conservative senators like Richard Burr (R-NC).