Constance B. Newman, director of the Office of Personnel Management, appears to be the front-runner to replace Elizabeth Hanford Dole as secretary of labor.

Newman, 54, who began her government service as a clerk-typist 28 years ago, would be the highest-ranking black woman in the Bush administration if appointed to the Cabinet post.

Administration sources cautioned that they did not believe President Bush had focused on the Cabinet vacancy, but that Newman was certainly on the "short list." After the president's veto of the civil-rights bill, a source said, "a number of people at the White House think she would be a good fit." Another source familiar with the selection process said, "Politically, she gives them a lot."

Another name on the short list is Rep. Lynn Martin (R-Ill.), who was defeated in her bid to unseat Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) in last week's election. Martin, who has close ties to Bush and was encouraged by the White House to run against Simon, is uncertain about what she wants to do next and has not asked for any specific job in the Bush administration, sources said.

White House officials have told Martin there are apt to be a number of other openings in the Bush administration within the next few months and that they believe Newman would be better for the labor post, sources said.

Martin, who is vacationing in Florida, was expected to make another round of calls to the White House to further assess her future.

Dole, who will become president of the American Red Cross early next year, will leave the Cabinet Nov. 23.