Henry Cisneros, the former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has emerged as a leading candidate for the senior staff position at the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, sources said.

The industry trade group is seeking someone to succeed Warren Lasko, who said in June that he was stepping down as executive vice president to head the MBA's international division.

Several mortgage banking executives, including former MBA president Paul S. Reid, have also been mentioned as contenders for the position. But mortgage bank executives said Mr. Cisneros' Washington credentials give him an edge.

"They are looking for more of a political animal," one source said.

Ron J. McCord, the MBA's president, said more than 70 people have expressed interest in the position, but he declined to name any candidates.

He said a decision could be made by early December, even though nobody has been interviewed yet by Korn-Ferry International, the firm conducting the search for the MBA.

"We are still very much in the information-gathering stage of the process. There is no front-runner per se," Mr. McCord said.

The executive vice president's main job is to represent the industry in front of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Congress, HUD, and other Washington agencies. Mr. Lasko has had the job for 12 years.

Mr. Cisneros, currently the president and chief operating officer of Univision, a Los Angeles-based Spanish language television network, did not returns calls for comment. He was HUD secretary from 1993 until this year.

Mr. Reid, who was the MBA's president in 1996, also did not return calls. Mr. Reid is the chief executive officer of American Home Funding, whose Rochester Community Savings Bank has been bought by Charter One Financial. Charter One is merging its mortgage operations with American Home Funding's.

Sources said Mr. Reid will leave American Home Funding after the MBA's annual conference, which will be held in New York next week.

One observer said that though Mr. Reid is respected and has the backing of many industry executives, the MBA is leaning toward Mr. Cisneros because of his Washington experience.

Issues such as mortgage insurance, the future of FHA/VA programs, and revamping the confusing Real Estate Settlements and Procedures Act will continue to be hot issues in Congress and HUD in the coming year.

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