The 5 best primaries in the country

It's the calm before the primary storm.

U.S. Senate candidate Chris McDaniel (R) of Mississippi. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
U.S. Senate candidate Chris McDaniel (R) of Mississippi. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

After a slate of early primary elections in Texas, Illinois and Florida, there hasn't been a state or congressional primary election in a few weeks. It's the last real quiet period before primary season kicks into full gear starting next month when nearly a dozen states will nominate candidates for Congress and governor.

So, what to watch for? Below we give you the five races not to be missed -- in chronological order:

To the Line!

Nebraska Senate race (Republican primary): Midland University President Ben Sasse is a somewhat unusual standard-bearer for the tea party, given his time spent in Washington in the Department of Health and Human Services and his alliances with GOP establishment types. But he has rallied the conservative base to his side against state treasurer Shane Osborn, the early favorite. A poll conducted by The Polling Company last month showed Osborn at 35 percent and Sasse at 24 percent. The primary is May 13, and the winner will undoubtedly become the next senator.

Georgia Senate race (Republican primary): Businessman David Perdue – a cousin of former governor Sonny Perdue (R) – was ascendant in this race before making comments about former secretary of state Karen Handel’s lack of a college degree. Handel is now proudly trumpeting Sarah Palin’s endorsement. Meanwhile, the three congressmen in the race -- Reps. Jack Kingston, Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey -- all voted against Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R) budget this week. It’s a crowded race to the right like we’ve rarely seen. Hoping it gets a little too far to the right is Democrat Michelle Nunn. The primary is May 20.

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Pennsylvania governor’s race (Democratic primary): Rep. Allyson Schwartz was supposed to be the big name in this race, but former state revenue commissioner Tom Wolf’s deep pockets have propelled him to a big lead, according to early polls. A new Franklin & Marshall College poll shows Wolf leading Schwartz 40 percent to 9 percent. Time is running out for Schwartz – or anyone else – with the primary being held on May 20. The winner is likely to be the next governor of Pennsylvania, given Gov. Tom Corbett’s (R) shoddy approval rating.

Mississippi Senate race (Republican primary): We've believed for months that the Republican senator most vulnerable to losing in a primary is Sen. Thad Cochran. But Cochran and his allies have done their due diligence preparing for this showdown. Cochran supporters have set up an outside group to protect him and hit state Sen. Chris McDaniel. Meanwhile, the release of some of McDaniel's past comments from his time as a conservative radio host have stoked controversy. In short, Cochran looks to be in better shape than he once was. The primary is June 3.

Hawaii Senate race (Democratic primary): The race for the future of the Hawaii Democratic Party is in many ways about the past. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is a protege of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D), whose dying wish was for her to replace him. Sen Brian Schatz recently scored the endorsement of President Obama -- a reminder that he backed Obama in the 2008 primary while Hanabusa and Inouye backed Hillary Rodham Clinton. This is shaping up as the most intense Democratic Senate primary of 2014. The primary is Aug. 9.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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