Ronald Reagan will begin naming the second half of his Cabinet early next week and the next group of nominees is likely to include his choice for secretary of state.
Former general Alexander M. Haig Jr. appears on the verge of getting the State Department post despite nervousness in the Regan camp about possible controversy during Senate confirmation hearings over Haig's role in the Nixon White House. Reagan aides still are pouring over the transcripts of those years, checking Haig's record.
The president-elect was reported close to decisions on several other Cabinet posts. Edwin Meese III, the White House counsel-designate, said Reagan hopes to name all his Cabinet nominess by Christmas.
Meese said the choices for the remaining seven Cabinet positions will be announced in two or three groups, possibly beginning Monday.
Jewel Lafontant, a former deputy solicitor general, was reported the odds-on favorite for secretary of housing and urban development. Lafontant, 58, is a Chicago lawyer who serves on the boards of TWA; Continental Bank; Foote, Cone & Belding; the Bendix Corp., and Equitable Life Assurance Society.
Her candidacy reportedly was being advocated by those companies as well as by black leaders who are fearful that Reagan will not put a black in his Cabinet. Lafontant practices law in Chicago.
For secretary of the interior, James Watt emerged as a leading contender. Clifford Hansen, a former senator from Wyoming, Reagan's first choice for the post, said yesterday of Watt: "I feel certain he's under consideration. I have recommended him."
Watt is president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation in Denver, a group formed by brewer Joseph Coors to combat environmentalists on western land issues. He is a former vice chairman of the Federal Power Commission and director of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation in the Interior Department under former presidents Nixon and Ford.
The other contender for Interior is Rep. Manuel Lujan (R-N.M.), whose presence in the Cabinet would please Hispanics. Some Reagan advisers say, however, that Lujan is not as strong as Watt in his opposition to controls on land and mineral development.
For secretary of labor, Reagan is trying to choose between Betty Murphy, a former head of the National Labor Relations Board who is supported by the Teamsters, the first union to back Reagan, and Ray Donovan, a contractor who headed the Reagan campaign in New Jersey.
Murphy is opposed by contractors and corporations that did not like her decisions at the NLRB, but Teamster officials met with Meese Wednesday to press her case. A Teamster spokesman said Meese was told that Murphy is the Teamsters' only candidate.
Richard Lyng was reported ready to accept the post of secretary of agriculture. Lyng, a former president of the American Meat Institute and a former assistant secretary of agriculture, had said repeatedly he was not interested in the job at USDA, where he has been directing Reagan's transition effort.
The leading candidates for secretary of education are Barbara Thompson, Wisconsin's superintendent of public instruction, and Elizabeth Dole, a top Reagan transition adviser and a former member of the Federal Trade Commission. Reagan has pledged to abolish the department.
In the aftermath of the first Cabinet announcements, considerable speculation centered on the next chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, the major unfilled economic policy post.
One Reagan associate said the omission of the CEA chairman from the first group was deliberate. "It was decided not to focus on that job until the other two [Treasury secretary and director of the Office of Management and Budget] were filled," he said. "Now there is a list -- not a long one."
There are indications that the job may have reduced importance under Reagan. "Before I would advise anyone to take that job, I would tell him to be sure what it entailed," one member of Reagan's economic policy coordinating committee said.
The most frequently mentioned candidate for CEA chairman is Martin Feldstein, a Harvard University economist and president of the National Bureau of Economic Research. He said he has not been approached by anyone from the Reagan team but added he would consider taking the job.
Reagan spent yesterday at Blair House, receiving a national security briefing and visiting senators, and meeting with his transition staff. It was the first day of his two post-election visits to Washington in which he did not make a public appearance.
Reagan is to fly back to Los Angeles today and remain in California until Jan. 5, when he returns here for three days.