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GOP: It takes an FCC woman

Mar 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

In a political reversal on quotas, GOP officials recently put out the word that they want to reserve one of the Federal Communications Commission’s two Republican vacancies for a woman.
And at deadline last week, sources said three major contenders had answered the call: two former FCC staffers and a Texan who served as an aide to George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas.
Insiders say the Texan to beat for the slot is Becky Armendariz, a 35-year-old Austin resident who is working as a federal relations consultant to KPMG Consulting.
Before that, she was a tele-communications policy adviser to President Bush in his previous role as governor of the Lone Star State. She has also served as an attorney for the Texas Public Utility Commission.
One of her key competitors for the slot, according to sources, is Kathleen Abernathy, a former FCC aide, who is now vice president of public policy for Broadband Office Communications, a telecommunications firm with an office in northern Virginia. While at the FCC, Ms. Abernathy, 44, served as an adviser to former Commissioner Jim Quello, a popular Democrat.
Also with her hat in the ring is Janice Obuchowski, another former FCC staffer who is now the president of Freedom Technologies, her own Washington tele-communications consulting firm. Ms. Obuchowski, 49, was also a legal adviser to former GOP FCC Chairman Mark Fowler.
Also last week, sources said the hopes of Democrats to be able to fill all four anticipated agency vacancies (two Republican and two Democratic seats) at the same time appeared to be dimming because Gloria Tristani, a sitting Democrat, has yet to announce a firm departure date.
She’s said only that she will leave before year-end. But the White House can’t name her successor before she actually moves on.
“She has no immediate plans to resign,” said a source close to the commissioner.
Sources said the Democrats also fear that if they agree to a package of two Republicans and one Democrat now, they’ll lose political leverage to influence who Ms. Tristani’s Democratic successor will be. Leaving her slot open could also leave the GOP with a 3-1 majority at the agency, with Republican Michael Powell firmly at the helm.
At deadline, sources said the candidate to beat for the one sure Democratic opening remains Michael Copps, a former aide to Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C. Mr. Copps, 60, has a Ph.D. in U.S. history. He was an official at the Department of Commerce in the Clinton administration.
The candidate who appears to enjoy the inside track for the second Republican vacancy is Pat Wood. Mr. Wood, 38, is an engineer/attorney who is chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission.
“If he wants it, he’ll get it,” said one source.
Said to have the inside track for the second Democratic slot is Andrew Levin, 38, is minority counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Before that, the attorney/CPA, who is backed by Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., worked for Bell Atlantic.
Continuing to vie for Democratic appointments, according to sources, are Mike McCarthy, senior vice president for Belo, and Greg Rohde, a former aide to Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.
Still hoping for a GOP slot, according to sources, is Kevin Martin, a former FCC aide who served as the FCC’s point man for the Bush-Cheney transition team.