It’s a race after all in 14th District

Incumbent Johnson has challenger in Brumback

By Justin Runquist, Columbian Small Cities Reporter

Published:

 

Incumbent 14th Legislative District Rep. Norm Johnson won’t necessarily be handed his seat in the general election after all.

Leading up to the primary, the three-term Republican from Yakima looked to be running unopposed to hold onto his Position 1 seat. But Yakima attorney Michael Scott Brumback came late to the race as a write-in candidate, and according to the Secretary of State’s office he picked up enough votes to challenge Johnson on the November ballot.

The district spans a large swath of Central Washington, including the entirety of Skamania and Klickitat counties and western Yakima County. A tiny slice of rural east Clark County also falls within its boundaries.

To make it to the general election, write-in candidates need just 1 percent of the vote in the primary. Brumback, 53, took nearly 3.5 percent, receiving 645 votes.

Brumback is running as a Republican, but no party preference will be mentioned for him on the ballot. That’s because as an undeclared candidate in the primary, he didn’t fill out the form that would denote his party.

Brumback has spent his career practicing law for a number of private firms, the Army, the Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney’s office and the city of Yakima, where he was once the assistant city attorney. Today, he’s a partner at Hurst, Brumback and Brusic, a personal injury firm in Union Gap.

He’s also spent more than 28 years in the Army, some of that time as a tank commander. Now a major, Brumback serves as a reserve officer in the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

While filling out his ballot a little more than a month ago, Brumback decided to join the race out of frustration with Johnson and the candidates running for the other 14th District state House position. Meanwhile, Brumback’s business partner, Joe Brusic, is also running for Yakima County prosecutor.

For Johnson, Brumback is actually a familiar foe. He ran against Johnson as a Democrat in 2010 and lost.

Back then, Brumback said he identified with the Democratic Party’s blue collar workforce. He switched parties later on, finding his conservative views misaligned with the Democrats.

Now, Brumback said he’s fed up with what he sees as an over-expanding state government in Washington, and he wants to cut down on spending.

“There’s been chronic fiscal irresponsibility, chronic overspending, chronic over-taxing, chronic over-regulation,” he said.

Brumback said his background in business would make him a strong fiscal advocate for the district. Among his other priorities, Brumback, a member of the National Rifle Association, said he wants to fight any efforts to ban assault weapons or ramp up restrictions on gun ownership.

“There’s a certain segment of the political elite who believe that the Second Amendment is something they have to work around instead of obeying it,” he said. “I’m a very strong Second Amendment guy.”

He also takes issue with the state’s moratorium on capital punishment. Gov. Jay Inslee announced in February that he would suspend the death penalty while he remains in office.

“He is the chief executive. It’s his sworn duty to execute the laws and not to impose his beliefs as if he’s a king,” Brumback said.

Brumback said he knows he’s at a disadvantage having entered the race late against a three-term incumbent. So far, Johnson leads by a wide margin in campaign fundraising.

Nonetheless, Brumback is hopeful and said he plans to run an aggressive local campaign leading up to the November election.

“I’m going to have less money than Norm Johnson, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “We will never match him dollar for dollar, but we will exceed him on the grass-roots effort.”