With the May 17 primary approaching, most folks in Jackson County likely know a good bit about local candidates for seats on the county commission, school board, the race for sheriff, etc.

They likely know a little less about hopefuls for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Richard Burr or the primary contests for the N.C. 11 congressional district, currently held by Madison Cawthorn, mainly because of the sheer volume of candidates.

In the 11th District, Democrats Jay Carey, Katie Dean, Marco Gutierrez, Bo Hess, Bynum M. Lunsford and Jasmine Beach-Ferrara are hoping to advance to the November general election. Whether any of them get a chance to knock off Cawthorn remains to be seen, as he faces Chuck Edwards, Rod Honeycutt, Wendy Marie-Limbaugh Nevarez, Bruce O’Connell, Kristie Sluder and Michele V. Woodhouse in the Republican primary.

The U.S. Senate race also features a cast of thousands, with 14 candidates lined up on the Republican ticket alone. That contest looks to be a three-man race between former Gov. Pat McCrory, U.S. Rep. Ted Budd and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker. Current polling seems to favor Budd, but McCrory has demonstrated appeal in the past, being the first Republican elected governor in North Carolina in two decades. On the flip side, he was also the first sitting governor in North Carolina history to lose a re-election bid.

Regardless, this is a competitive race, and ads – often bruising ones – are filling the airwaves. The School Freedom Fund, a pro-school choice political group riding the deep pockets of a Wall Street billionaire, has dropped $1.3 million for pro-Budd and/or anti-McCrory ads. The Club for Growth Action PAC plans to spend $14 million along the same lines.

There’s plenty more money from similar groups, and will be from groups across the spectrum once the general election candidates are set.

While there’s some question of who that will be on the Republican side, the Democratic primary, which features 11 candidates, seems settled outside of some unforeseen event. Cheri Beasley, who lost her state Supreme Court seat to Paul Newby in 2020 by 400 votes, is the clear frontrunner after her main party challenger, State Sen. Jeff Jackson, exited the race to seek a congressional seat.

Beasley is beginning to advertise, but they’re genteel “get to know me” spots.

Once the dust settles from the primary, well, hang on to your hat.

The 2020 U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Thom Tillis and Democratic nominee Cal Cunningham saw what was once unheard-of spending levels, topping $270 million.

In an election year where the power balance of the U.S. Senate could be changed by a unicycle accident, it’s a safe bet we’ll see spending levels approaching, or surpassing, the 2020 total.

The ads will be nasty, and they’ll be everywhere. No radio, TV channel, website, neighborhood Facebook site or mailbox will be safe from May 18 forward.

Buckle up, voters. It’s going to be a wild ride.