Donna A. Tanoue, a former banking commissioner in Hawaii, has emerged as the leading candidate for chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., a Clinton administration source said Monday.

Rejecting recommendations made last month by the Treasury Department, senior White House officials are favoring Ms. Tanoue and already have launched an extensive check into her background, sources said.

Charles N. Duncan, associate director of presidential personnel at the White House, declined to comment Monday on the nomination.

Ms. Tanoue also declined on Monday to comment.

A partner in the law firm Goodsill, Anderson, Quinn & Stifel in Honolulu, Ms. Tanoue, 43, specializes in banking, real estate, telecommunications, and government affairs.

She was Hawaii's first commissioner of financial institutions, serving from 1983 to 1987. She is the campaign manager for Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii, a post that she also held in 1992.

Top Treasury officials reportedly favor Maine banker Lawrence Connell, but observers said the White House wants to select a woman or minority candidate.

The nominee would succeed the first woman to head a federal banking agency, Ricki Helfer, who resigned June 1. Acting Chairman Andrew C. Hove Jr. is running the agency during the interim.

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