Yee, 49, became politically aware as a teenager in San Francisco, translating at school board meetings for her immigrant parents. They were fighting an attempt to bus her little sister across town to racially integrate a faraway school. "It opened my eyes to the fact you can participate and have a voice," she recalls.
Steel, 51, who's married to former Republican state Chairman Shawn Steel, says she got politically involved after the 1992 L.A. riots as a bridge between looted Korean merchants and white community leaders. But even before that, she had focused on the Board of Equalization. It had overtaxed inventory at a downtown L.A. clothing shop owned by her immigrant mother.