The 2014 Republican gubernatorial race is a puzzle.

Mike Flood was the heavyweight prospect, the guy with the credentials and the leadership record, the guy with fundraising potential and the support of elected Republican officials who already have earned the voters' trust.

Flood's decision not to re-enter the contest opens the GOP field wide, probably improves the chance that Democrats might spring a big gubernatorial upset and could be a factor in Steve Lathrop's approaching decision on whether to enter the Democratic race.

OK, OK, let's be careful here. Don't underestimate Charlie Janssen's appeal in a statewide Republican primary election as the Fremont state senator pushes hot-button issues like immigration and gun rights. Flood's nomination was no cinch.

And now we have free-spending Falls City businessman Charles Herbster about to enter the Republican scrap, with Carlos Castillo at his side as campaign manager. 

Castillo managed Dave Heineman's 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary campaign victory over Tom Osborne, plowing new ground in the application of modern technology to micro-target voters.

During an interview last year before the Republican national convention, Castillo mentioned how he'd been intrigued by the advancement of technology since then and how it might be applied to modern campaigns to refine "predictive targeting" of voters.

Now, he said, there's an opportunity to marry all of that to real-time mobile technology.

With Herbster's money and Castillo's campaign managing skills, you've got to count the new guy as an immediate player even if his name-recognition number at the beginning must be in the single digits.

Tom Carlson jumped into the GOP pool last week, and the Holdrege state senator enters with built-in agricultural support and an address in western and central Nebraska's 3rd Congressional District, which tends to dominate statewide Republican primary elections.

Others probably will be coming.

With Flood and former Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy out, and University of Nebraska Regent Tim Clare declining to get in, this is a wide-open race.

On the Democratic side, Chuck Hassebrook already has constructed a solid campaign organization, and the former University of Nebraska regent has been traveling the state.

Lathrop's decision on whether to enter the Democratic race is expected this month.

Filibuster abuse

If the rule for Senate filibusters is altered by the Democratic majority, the old rule will have died as a result of abuse. 

It was an inside job.

Filibusters seemed to be a reasonable tool when they were used selectively. But the last resort of a Senate filibuster has been turned into the first resort and transformed the Senate into a body where the minority rules and little can be accomplished.

Some senators who are crying foul might find the culprits in this little drama by looking in the mirror.

Better yet: Work it out, people. Most of us would like to see you learn to play well together.

U.S. must lead

Sen. Deb Fischer says the message she heard on her trip to the Middle East this month was that peace in the region is contingent upon U.S. leadership.

"Our allies need reassurance of our support, and our enemies need a reminder of our resolve," she says in a report to Nebraskans.

"The administration's failed foreign policy of 'leading from behind' seems to have caught up to us," the Republican senator says.

Finishing up

* Gonna say it again: Wouldn't it be easier to embrace tax cuts, when they may well be merited, if there were not such a strong ideological bloc of elected officials who will never vote to raise -- or restore -- those taxes when revenue may be needed? 

* It's Coleen Seng. One L, not two. I got it wrong in a recent column, repeating the spelling in a news release rather than remembering the correct spelling as I should have. Sorry, Mayor.

* Matt Damon could be a huge recruit, a big plus for the University of Nebraska. Uh, Matt, your Husker gear looks a lot better than the Red Sox cap.

* All-star break. Danger ahead.

Reach Don Walton at 402-473-7248 or  dwalton@journalstar.com.