NEW YORK CITY—The state’s biggest utility may soon lose its leading lobbyist to the real estate industry’s most influential organization.

John Banks, VP of government relations for Con Edison, is a front runner to take over as president of the Real Estate Board of New York, according to Crain’s New York Business. A REBNY spokesperson declined to comment to while a Con Ed spokesperson did not respond to a call from

The post has been held for close to 30 years by Steven Spinola, a well-regarded executive who this summer announced that he would retire next year.

Banks has been a top executives working in Con Ed’s government affairs since 2002. Previously, he was chief of staff for the City Council.  

If hired by REBNY, Banks would be expected to follow Spinola’s legacy of wielding the group’s clout and wealth to shape or halt government regulations, laws and tax policies that impact the real estate industry. REBNY’s board of governors—a group of members composed largely of the city’s biggest and most powerful landlords—has been vetting candidates since Spinola announced his departure in June.

Like Spinola before him, Banks has spent a great deal of his career working for city government. He got his start in the Mayor’s office in 1986, Crain’s reports. In 1990, he joined the City Council, working his way up to become the council’s chief of staff from 2000 to 2002 before leaving to join Con Ed. Similarly, Spinola served as a senior economic development official under Mayor Ed Koch in the 1980s before moving to REBNY in 1986.

Banks’ competition for REBNY’s top post reportedly is Jim Whelan, an executive at the trade association who has helped lead its lobbying efforts for the past four years. Among Whelan’s recent work was a successful push to help keep Republicans in control of the state Senate. Many members of the industry see the Senate as a vital counterbalance to the state’s Democrat-controlled Assembly. Particularly since the Senate generally has generally supported real estate interests.

Ramon Martinez, deputy chief of staff to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, also is said to be under consideration for the position.