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After failing to recruit a strong candidate in 2008, Republicans think they have found in ophthalmologist Nan Hayworth a challenger who can give sophomore Rep. John Hall, D-N.Y., a run for his money in 2010.
"She is a very exciting candidate," said Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "She is going to broaden the spectrum of people listening to the Republican message."
Despite her lack of political experience, Republicans say Hayworth's accomplishments in the medical field -- until 2005 she was a partner in the Mount Kisco Medical Group -- her tough talk on fiscal discipline, her ability to self-fund and her personable nature could make her a formidable opponent in a district where President Obama edged Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., just 51 percent to 48 percent.
Hayworth put up $150,000 of her own money and reported $318,000 in cash on hand at the end of the third quarter, rivaling Hall's $351,000. She said she is prepared to invest more of her own money, if necessary.
Democrats doubt Hall's vulnerability after his 58 percent win in 2008 -- he is not on their Frontline Program for vulnerable incumbents -- pointing to the Hudson Valley region's trend toward Democrats this decade and Hall's record of constituent service.
"Congressman Hall has been hard at work fighting to bring jobs, economic development, and investments in infrastructure to the Hudson Valley," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Shripal Shah. "Though Nan Hayworth wants to double down on the failed Bush economic agenda that got us into this mess, Congressman Hall is committed to turning the page and moving our economy forward, and that will remain focus."
It remains to be seen whether Hayworth can turn her promise into reality. In addition to a lack of campaign experience, she still has much to prove among local Republicans, many of whom supported the more conservative Ball until he announced he was switching gears and running for the state Senate on Nov. 21.
One factor in Ball's change of heart was his concern about having to pivot from a heated primary fight to the general election, with only six weeks in between. And he worried that he wouldn't have the national party's full backing should he win the primary, according to a Republican consultant familiar with the race.
The NRCC had added Ball to the first tier of their "Young Guns" program for recruits this summer, but they also welcomed Hayworth's candidacy when she joined the race in the fall.
Michael Edelman, a Republican political commentator based in Westchester County, N.Y., said Hayworth would be appealing to Republican recruiters because she "doesn't have any enemies in the district."
"She is a non-controversial Republican," he said, while Ball is the opposite.
He ruffled feathers in Assembly when he called the legislature out for being "dysfunctional," was investigated for sexually harassing a former assembly aide -- but was not found in violation of its sexual harassment policy -- and has also been accused of campaign finance violations during his congressional run. Even state Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun, a Ball ally, acknowledges that he "has a way of polarizing people."