Michael Battle, a former US attorney for the Western District of New York and one time director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, is considering a possible run for state attorney general on the GOP line, sources familiar with his thinking said.

Battle has expressed interest in challenging Democratic AG Eric Schneiderman this fall to state GOP Chairman Ed Cox, according to a Republican source. Battle, who is now in private practice at the firm of Schlam Stone & Dolan, has so far not returned a call seeking comment. A state party spokesman also declined to comment.

An Ithaca College and Buffalo Law School grad, Battle was appointed in 1995 by the last Republican AG, Dennis Vacco, as an assistant AG in charge of the Buffalo Regional Office. In 1996, he was appointed by then Gov. George Pataki (and was subsequently elected) to the Erie County Family Court bench.

Interestingly, Pataki’s former top aide and current law partner, John Cahill, is also interested in running for AG this year, and has been talking with leaders in both the Republican and Conservative parties about a potential campaign.

Both he and Battle are relative unknowns in New York and would have to work hard to raise their name recognition with voters. Than again, polls have consistently shown that a majority of New Yorkers don’t know who Schneiderman is, despite the fact that he has held statewide office since January 2011.

Another former US attorney, Michael Garcia, has also been mentioned as a possible GOP candidate to challenge Schneiderman. But he seems to have fallen off the radar screen. Plus, any political run by him would be complicated by the fact that he represented the Senate GOP in its legal battle with the Moreland Commission.

Schneiderman will no doubt be able to count on his friends on the left – especially in the labor community – to assist him no matter who challenges him this fall. And the Democrats will have ample opposition fodder to use against Battle if he’s chosen to be the GOP’s AG candidate.

After six years as a judge, Battle was appointed by President George W. Bush to the US attorney post, which he held from 2002 to 2005. In 2005, Bush promoted Battle to be director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, where he had administrative oversight of all 93 US attorneys and served as liaison between them and the Justice Department and other federal agencies.

Battle played a role in a December 2006 controversy in which seven US attorneys received midterm dismissals – an unprecedented move – and were replaced with interim appointees under provisions of the Patriot Act reauthorization. Battle was charged with informing the seven that their services were no longer needed.

Subsequent congressional investigations focused on whether the DOJ and the White House were using the US attorney positions for political advantage. Some of the attorneys who lost their jobs were allegedly fired to impede ongoing investigations of Republican politicians or due to their failure to launch probes that targeted Democrats. As Congress began issuing subpoenas in the matter, Battle resigned on March 5, 2007.

There was also some controversy during Battle’s term as US attorney for the Western District, where he was responsible for the case of Benamar Benatta, who was held without trial for five years following his forcible rendition from Canada one day after the Sept. 11 attacks. The FBI determined Benatta was innocent, but he remained behind bars. A federal magistrate judge concluded Battle had conspired with the FBI and immigration agents to make it seem as if Benatta was being held for immigration violations.

Battle dropped the charges against Benatta in October 2003, but he wasn’t released until 2005.