Dispatches from the campaign trail, March 11, 2014

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• House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, lapped the field in a straw poll conducted before Saturday’s Lincoln Reagan dinner in Lincoln County. Tillis, who’s running for the Republican nomination to battle incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, won 73 percent of the vote, followed by Mark Harris with 16 percent, and Greg Brannon with 6 percent.

• Brannon, an OB/GYN from Cary, spent the early part of the weekend in Washington, attending the Conservative Political Action Conference and raising money alongside insurgent Republican leaders, including Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah. Meantime, Brannon defended earlier statements he’s made criticizing establishment Republicans, including one claiming a vote in 2012 for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney was a vote for “tyranny.”

• Casey Mann, the new executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party, acknowledged that the party is in financial trouble and blames its fiscal woes on the law passed by the General Assembly ending the political checkoff fund on state income tax returns, saying the party raised most of its operating money from that fund.

• Roughly a couple of dozen Senate Democrats staged an “all-nighter” on that chamber’s floor to highlight attention to climate change. Sen. Kay Hagan wasn’t among them.

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