Fiona Ma for State Assembly

Democratic Legislators to Watch

Last week, we offered more than a dozen Republicans to watch in the nation's state legislatures. This week we turn to the Democrats. We assembled this list by seeking nominations from our network of sources in the states, as well as national experts on state legislatures.

In seeking nominations, we assumed that ambition was a given. We wanted to feature politicians with a long future, particularly with the possibility of winning higher office at the state or federal level.

We looked for leadership qualities, demonstrated either through formal leadership posts or service in junior positions where a legislator showed unusual initiative. The ability to strike alliances across party lines was a plus, as was a record of leading his or her party to noteworthy gains. We gave special weight to those who have a compelling personal story to tell.

California House Speaker Pro Tempore Fiona Ma

Ma, who plans on running for state Senate, is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Ma started her political career as an aide to former influential state Sen. John Burton, a Democrat. She won election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors before winning an Assembly seat in 2006 and quickly ascending the leadership ladder. Her legislative agenda has included restrictions on chemicals in toys, tools to fight domestic violence, expansion of high-speed rail and awareness of hepatitis B -- a problem disproportionate among Asian and Pacific Islanders, including Ma herself, who learned at age 22 that she had been infected at birth.

To read more about other impressive Democratic legislators, read the full article here.