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New York: 2010 Could Bring Ball Versus Hall Showdown

State Assemblyman Greg Ball (R) is expected to announce next week that he is setting up an exploratory committee for a possible race against two-term Rep. John Hall (D) in 2010.

Ball has a fundraiser scheduled for Feb. 12 in Ossining, to be headlined by Gary Bernsten, a former CIA field commander.

Ball, who is just 31, has made no secret of his desire to serve in Congress someday, and he is seen as a rising star in state GOP circles. But he is not even universally loved within his party locally — he ousted an incumbent Republican assemblyman in a nasty primary in 2006, and faced a tough primary challenge of his own last year.

Hall, a former pop star, upset then-Rep. Sue Kelly (R) during the Democratic wave of 2006, then skated to re-election last year. He finished 2008 with $165,000 in his campaign account.

Republicans thought they had recruited a top-tier challenger last cycle in wealthy businessman and philanthropist Andrew Saul, but he abruptly dropped out of the race a year before Election Day.

The New York Daily News reported Wednesday that new Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is scheduled to meet with Saul and other New York-based GOP donors today, but it is unclear whether the race against Hall will be on the agenda.

Gillibrand Money Machine Begins to Rev

The finance team of new Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) had its first meeting this week, according to More than 300 people gathered in the offices of a top New York City law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, the Web site reported, and pledged to raise $20 million between now and Election Day 2010.

Gillibrand, who was sworn in last week, has wasted no time raising money for what could be a very tough campaign. On Wednesday night, Washington, D.C., powerhouse lobbyists Tony and Heather Podesta hosted a fundraising dinner for Gillibrand. The e-mail accompanying the invitation arrived to potential donors with the subject line, “Upstate Girl.”

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