From being a scout leader to serving as a natural resources district director, Russ Barger views the Nebraska State Legislature as the next step in a career in public service.

Barger, a Republican, faces George Dungan III, a Democrat, on Tuesday to represent Nebraska’s 26th District as a state senator, which encompasses northeast Lincoln and neighbors the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus. According to Ballotpedia, this is a “battleground race,” as neither party in the district has a partisan lean greater than 55%.

Barger grew up in a rural area in western Nebraska and attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he received his undergraduate and law degrees. He has since worked as an assistant attorney general, a hearing officer for the Labor Department and in a private law practice. 

If elected, Barger said that his priorities would be controlling government spending, protection of constitutional rights and public safety. 

Barger said he would benefit students by creating protections against mandates and reducing taxes. He identified that students should be worried about “[trading] freedom for safety.”

“Every time you provide the government more control over your life, they are not going to give it back,” he said. “The pandemic should prove that we too easily give up our freedoms.”

Similarly to his opponent, public safety is a priority for Barger. He referenced the recent legalization of gambling as a point of concern and said it brings sex trafficking, drugs and gangs. 

His solution centered on increasing funds for law enforcement. 

“Lincoln’s law enforcement has been underfunded and under-equipped for some time,” Barger said. “Only recently did the mayor bump up their compensation. This may be part of the reason we are seeing this crime spike.”

On the topic of abortion, Barger reported in a survey done by Nebraska Right to Life that the procedure should only be legal in cases where the mother’s life is threatened but did not approve in instances of rape or incest. He previously clerked for the National Right to Life Committee in Washington DC, and has served as a member of the Lincoln Right to Life Board.

“The founders wanted the states to handle this type of topic,” Barger said in a Facebook post. “They did not envision the Supreme Court using the substantive due process clause to become a super-legislature. Nebraska must get the change to again be a pro-life state.”

Another key issue for Barger is election integrity, calling for paper ballots and increased voter ID. In this upcoming election, Ballot Initiative 432 would allow citizens to vote for or against requiring people to present a photo ID at a poll booth. 

Barger’s other points of concern are tied to constitutional rights. He has emphasized that rights – specifically pertaining to the First, Second and Fourteenth Amendments – are in trouble. 

“Government is not meant to fix everything,” Barger said. “In fact, it seems to do a good job of doing just the opposite at times. Giving more power to government or oligarchs generally does not help build a middle class, so be wary when the government or mega-corporations offer programs that slowly squeeze your freedom and take more of your paycheck.”

In the May primary election, Barger held 41% of votes, the highest share of all candidates for District 26.

“For too long our district has been represented by aspiring politicians who use northeast Lincoln as a stepping stone for their own political careers,” Barger said in a Facebook post. “We don't need another representative who ignores us or one who buys a house and moves into the district after he already announced he was running for office. We deserve better."