Who's on first at the FCC?

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Here's the latest on the hunt for new FCC commissioners. Former Commerce Department official Michael Copps is said to be the front-runner to replace Democrat Susan Ness. He is backed by Senate Commerce Committee ranking Democrat Ernest Hollings, to whom Chairman John McCain has promised the pick, and has the backing of Senate Minority leader Tom Daschle.

The two GOP seats still appear unsettled. Former NTIA head Janis Obuchowski is the highest-profile candidate for one seat, which apparently is designated for a woman. But Rebecca Armendariz, from President Bush's gubernatorial staff, and Kathleen Abernathy, former FCC staffer, also have strong shots. Despite opposition from phone companies, Texas Utility regulator Judy Walsh has an outside chance. The other GOP slot seems wide open. Pat Wood, Texas' top utility regulator, appears out of the contest but is the leading candidate to either head NTIA or, if the spot opens up, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. That leaves the FCC spot a toss-up between Bush aide Kevin Martin and Earl Comstock, a former staffer for Sen. Ted Stevens.

Finally, when FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani steps down later this year, leading candidates for her seat are Rep. John Dingell's aide Andy Levin and Belo lobbyist Michael McCarthy.

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