A veteran leader of Washington's high-tech business community has emerged as the frontrunner to become chairman of the Board of Regents for Maryland's university system.

Sources close to the regents said they expect Clifford M. Kendall of Potomac to be unanimously elected at the board's meeting in Baltimore tomorrow. Kendall would replace Chairman Nathan A. Chapman Jr., who will step down at the end of the year.

Kendall, 71, a founder and former chairman of Computer Data Systems Inc., gained support during behind-the-scenes discussions this week because of his reputation as a politically independent regent, sources said. Though appointed to the board by outgoing Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D), Kendall did not have close ties to the old administration that would hinder a new working relationship with Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R).

Kendall, reached at his home last night, would not comment on reports that he would win the post. "We'll just have to wait and see what happens," he said.

The chairman is elected by the regents, but members have typically looked to the governor for guidance. Sources said that Ehrlich signaled his support of Kendall.

Still, others noted that Kendall's tenure could be short. The new chairman will merely get to complete the second half of Chapman's one-year term, which ends in July. By then, Ehrlich will have had the chance to fill board vacancies with new appointees, possibly with hopes of maneuvering one of them into the chairmanship.

Chapman, a Baltimore stockbroker and close ally of Glendening's, announced last July that he would step down to devote more time to his investment firm, whose handling of state pension funds is under federal investigation.

Kendall, a native of Northeast Washington, worked his way through the former Wilson Teachers College -- now part of the University of the District of Columbia -- and the University of Maryland before getting a graduate degree from George Washington University.

In 1968, he founded Computer Data Systems Inc. -- now ACS Government Solutions Group -- considered a regional pioneer in information technology services.

Glendening appointed Kendall to the board in 1999 to complete an unexpired term, then appointed him to a five-year term in 2001.