WASHINGTON — A new name has surfaced in the sweepstakes to be the next Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director amid growing skepticism that the White House's first choice, J. Mark McWatters, will get the nod.

Jonathan Dever, a Republican Ohio state representative and defense lawyer, is being touted as a top candidate to lead the bureau, according to multiple insiders.

Dever’s name first surfaced last year, but appears to have picked up steam in recent days after the banking industry raised objections to McWatters, arguing the chairman of the National Credit Union Administration is too close to the industry he supervises.

Jonathan Dever, a Republican Ohio state representative and defense lawyer.
Jonathan Dever, an Ohio state lawmaker and lawyer, specializes in mortgage regulations and foreclosure defense.

Little is known about Dever, though he is being championed by Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, a member of the House Financial Services Committee and the National Republican Campaign Committee.

Dever was elected to the Ohio state legislature in 2014 and operates The Dever Law Firm, a small company outside of Cincinnati. According to the company’s website, Dever specializes in mortgage regulations and foreclosure defense.

Dever has sponsored foreclosure legislation, including a bill that created the D.O.L.L.A.R. Deed program in Ohio that allows homeowners to stay in their homes as renters if they don’t qualify for a mortgage modification.

Top administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence’s Chief Economist Mark Calabria and Treasury senior counsel Craig Phillips, criticized mortgage regulations in speeches this week for driving up the cost of credit and creating an uneven playing field, shifting market share to the government’s balance sheet. Many conservatives blame the CFPB for the tightness of credit.

“It continues to be too difficult to get a mortgage,” Phillips said in a speech Thursday. “The nature of regulation can be measured in costs and the costs have skyrocketed since the financial crisis.”

McWatters’ name surfaced late last month as the lead contender to be the next CFPB director, but bankers have balked, pointing to his record of favoring credit unions as head of the NCUA.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex., has come out in defense of McWatters, but there have been attacks on his candidacy from the left and the right.

If Dever were to be nominated and confirmed for the job, he would be the second Ohio politician to lead the bureau, succeeding Richard Cordray, who is now running for governor in the Buckeye State.

He would replace Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget, who was designated by President Trump as acting CFPB director. Mulvaney has taken several actions that have alarmed Democrats, including reopening a rule to rein in payday lending.

On Wednesday Mulvaney sent a letter to the Federal Reserve Board requesting no additional funding for the agency, saying instead he would draw from a reserve fund to cover the bureau’s second-quarter funding.

Calabria said in a speech Wednesday that despite fears among consumer groups and Democrats, the CFPB is “here to stay” and it will be “less partisan” under Republican control.