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Nancy Mace’s former top aide eyes a run against her

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Nancy Mace’s former top aide is weighing a primary challenge to the South Carolina Republican, setting up what could be one of the campaign season’s most bitter intra-party clashes.

Dan Hanlon, who served as chief of staff to Mace until late last month, is meeting with potential donors and potential people for his team as he weighs running against her, according to two Republicans with direct knowledge who spoke on condition of anonymity. Hanlon became Mace’s chief in 2022, rising quickly to the top spot in her Hill office after serving in the Trump administration for four years.

Hanlon has until South Carolina’s March 30 filing deadline to decide on a run, though candidates usually need to get their operations up and running early if they want to be competitive, particularly against incumbents. Any primary challenge to Mace could get serious attention from the upper ranks of the House GOP, where some feelings are still bruised by her surprising vote to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) back in October.

“Hanlon has been pleased with how well the idea has been received and how many people are looking for a Mace alternative, both money people in D.C. and movers and shakers in S.C.,” one of the Republicans familiar with his decision-making said.

While primary challenges are nothing new on the Hill, it’s rare to see a member face a direct challenge from a top aide who departed weeks earlier. Hanlon is well-positioned to expose Mace’s weak points during a primary battle, given his high-level knowledge of her office. But if he runs, he’d also leave himself open to counter-attacks from her backers that he’s motivated by a grudge against his former employer.

A spokesperson for Mace did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

GOP critics of Mace — particularly allies of McCarthy — are still looking for ways to unseat her after she joined seven other Republicans in voting to strip his gavel. Most of the other GOP lawmakers who moved to eject McCarthy were more predictable foes and members of the House Freedom Caucus.

Mace’s ejection vote also turned into an awkward moment for Hanlon, however. After the ouster vote, in early October, McCarthy blasted her on national television and claimed that he’d called Hanlon to ask “where have I not kept my word” when it came to Mace.

“[The] Chief of staff said, ‘You have kept your word, 100 percent,’” McCarthy said at the time. “Her chief of staff told all of us, we have kept every single one of our words. And he said he’s told her that too.”

Mace, for her part, has argued that she voted McCarthy out was because he wasn’t truthful with her.

Hanlon departed Mace’s office in early December after she had already moved to replace him as chief of staff, according to four people familiar with the matter.

Tensions spiked on his way out the door as Mace’s incoming chief of staff, Lorie Khatod, called the Capitol Police to the office as Hanlon returned to give back his keys and other office-related items, according to three people familiar with the matter.

One of the Republicans who confirmed Hanlon’s potential candidacy even predicted that other former Mace staffers would join his campaign, a signal of former aides’ growing alienation toward her.