Looks like a heckuva Republican Senate race.

Shane Osborn, Ben Sasse and Bart McLeay head the list of candidates so far.

But the focus is on an uncertain gubernatorial scrap right now.

Charlie Janssen and Tom Carlson, two state senators, are officially in.  Falls City businessman Charles Herbster is unofficially in. Pete Ricketts may be on the way. Lots of stirring on the Republican side.

On the Democratic side of the ballot, Chuck Hassebrook is out there campaigning and Steve Lathrop has indicated he expects to decide sometime in July. That would be this week, but there's no deadline that couldn't be extended.

However, August is an opportunity to start to make your presence known at county fairs, and that could be a factor worth considering.

Early guesswork suggests the Senate race will be a very heavy lift for Democrats, but the governorship might be in play. That guess comes with a big "if" attached.

'If' Nebraska voters have not settled into a pattern of voting for the R on the ballot, whomever that may be, when we reach the general election.

With Congress malfunctional at best right now, the action is in the State Capitol, where the non-partisan Legislature has become a vibrant force and the governor's office is up for grabs after Dave Heineman's record 10 years. 

No doubt, the spotlight will move occasionally during the next 15 months or so, but right now it's shining on the governorship.

And the legislative races.

* * *

An interview with Mayor Chris Beutler last week for an upcoming special section on the new arena resulted in some interesting candor and introspection.

Since those remarks won't be in the article for the arena section, let's share what Beutler had to say here.

The question focused on what he has learned and how he may have changed since moving into the executive position of mayor after serving in the legislative branch as a state senator for nearly 24 years.

"I had a lot of things to learn," Beutler said.

"In terms of personal growth, I had to learn to trust other people more, learn to be more patient in coalition-building.

"I was always a policy guy (and) if you determined something was logically right, you moved ahead."

As mayor, Beutler said, he recognized that he had to build a coalition ahead of some decisions, certainly in the case of the proposal to build a new sports and entertainment arena.

"I needed a guy like Rick to make me do that," Beutler said, nodding toward Rick Hoppe, his chief of staff, who joined us in the conference room at the mayor's office.

"I surrounded myself with people who altogether had a pretty good take on the pulse of the public (and) how fast we could go." 

Beutler was a state senator from 1979 to 1986, when he resigned to seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, which ultimately was won by Helen Boosalis, Lincoln's former mayor.

In 1991, Beutler returned to the Legislature and served another 16 years.

* * *

Heavy seas ahead.

"September will be a wild month," Mike Johanns says.

It's a month when Congress confronts budget issues at the close of the fiscal year along with the politically-charged need to raise the debt ceiling in order to pay the nation's bills.

"A big month for fiscal issues," Johanns says. 

Lots of drama — and plenty of posturing — ahead. We've seen this movie before. 

It won't be pretty, but hopefully the damage will be minimal once the deadlock is over and the wrangling and rassling for political advantage is done. 

If it ever is.

Finishing up

* Czech Ambassador Petr Gandalovic is coming to Nebraska's Prague. He'll attend a community event in the little Saunders County community, scheduled at the Kolache Korner Cafe on Aug. 12, beginning at 5:30 p.m. 

* Deb Fischer's August recess schedule takes her from Omaha and Elkhorn to Chadron, Alliance and Gering and 10 communities in between.

* Jeff Fortenberry will hold a town hall meeting at Lincoln Southwest High School on Aug. 5, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

* Johanns, when asked about the delicate diplomatic dance employed to describe the military's ouster of the elected government of Egypt: "Looks like a coup to me."

* The drums of August soon will be pounding across the campus again, announcing the approach of the Cowboys and Ragtime Cowboy Joe. It's Wyoming in Lincoln on Aug. 31 before a record crowd.

* But it's baseball now, with a recession hitting New York in both leagues. Uh, wise investment, not reduced spending, is the way out.

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