Oregon Public Utility Commission member Joan H. Smith has emerged as a front-runner to fill the vacant Republican seat on the Federal Communications Commission.

Smith, 51, recently flew to Washington, D.C., where she was interviewed for the post by White House deputy chief of staff Roy Neel.

Smith said this week she has no idea whether she will be nominated to the position left vacant earlier this year by the resignation of Sherrie Marshall.

Smith, a liberal Republican, has garnered the support of Oregon Gov. Barbara Roberts, and her predecessor, Neil Goldschmidt. Both Roberts and Goldschmidt are Democrats. Smith has also lined up the support of Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Oregon) and Rep. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and has won the endorsement of two of the nation’s governors.

Smith has served on the Oregon PUC for three years.

Meanwhile, Capitol Hill staffers report no progress on the stalled nomination of Democrat Reed Hundt to become President Clinton’s new FCC chairman.

Two weeks ago, Hundt won unanimous support from the Senate Commerce Committee to take the FCC reins. Since then, however, the nomination has been bogged down in partisan politics.

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