May marks the true kickoff of primary season for the 2014 elections. While two states, Texas and Illinois, have held March primaries, the real fun begins this month when 11 states hold contests. The races in May include major showdowns between the Tea Party and the GOP establishment, key contests that may help determine control of the Senate and other races that will shape the political battles in the fall.

May 6: North Carolina

The GOP U.S. Senate primary to take on Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan has been ferocious. The three-way contest between State House Speaker Thom Tillis, pastor Mark Harris, and Tea Party activist Greg Brannon has been brutal. While Tillis is favored, he has to get at least 40 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff on July 15. There also are a couple of other interesting races in the Tarheel State, including Clay Aiken’s bid to win the Democratic nomination for Congress in the state’s Second Congressional District.

May 13: Nebraska

The Cornhusker State has what has turned into a major showdown between the Tea Party and the establishment for its open Senate seat. With college president Ben Sasse becoming the Tea Party candidate and former state treasurer and Navy pilot Shane Osborn representing the establishment, this GOP primary in a safe Republican state will be an important litmus test for the mood of conservative voters heading toward 2016.

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