Dispatches from the campaign trail, February 11, 2014

• Cary physician Greg Brannon, who plans to run for the U.S. Senate, won’t be able to spend full time campaigning for at least a week, as a civil trial opened Monday in which he and a former business partner are charged with defrauding two former investors in a tech start-up. Jury selection is complete, and the trial, expected to take a week or so, is set to open today.

• One of Brannon’s Republican rivals, House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, is racking up endorsements and money from sitting senators.

• Clay Aiken may need more than star appeal to persuade voters that he’s the best candidate to serve in the 2nd Congressional District. A new Rasmussen Reports poll shows only 4 percent of voters are more likely to support a celebrity, with 42 percent less likely to back one. A majority, 52 percent, said celebrity status makes no difference.

• Meantime, Aiken has taken a stand on one issue important to his constituents: military pay and benefits. He attacked incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers for backing sequestration, which has trimmed spending on some defense contracting.

• Former state Rep. Earl Jones, D-Guilford, may seek the legislative seat he held for eight years. Rep. Marcus Brandon, who defeated Jones in 2010, is trying to win the Democratic nomination in the 12th Congressional District.

• Candidate filing opened Monday. The list of those filing on the first day is here (PDF).

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