That elections guy

Yesterday I gave the Oregon secretary of state, Ben Clarno, a hard time for canning the state elections director while the counting from last week's election was still in progress. The move was especially questionable given that the director, Steve Trout, had just written an important, if scathing, memo criticizing Clarno's office for its outdated, vulnerable software.

Comments from a couple of knowledgable friends got me thinking a little more about the incident, and looking further into Trout. It's a longer, and more interesting, story than I realized.

Trout had a couple of different terms running the elections for the state. His first term was working for the then-secretary of state, Kate Brown, now governor.

That stint, which started in 2009, ended in the wake of the infamous 2012 incident in which Brown took enormous heat for changing the date of an election for state labor and industries commissioner from May to November. The date move was a surprise, and many thought it was legally erroneous. But there was a lawsuit, and Brown was vindicated. She even won re-election that November herself. But it was not her most comfortable moment in politics, to be sure.

Trout, who I'm sure was in the middle of the confusion, left state government shortly thereafter.

But he made a comeback. Dennis Richardson, a Republican, was elected secretary of state in 2016, and he brought Trout back in to run elections. But Richardson died in 2019, and by law, Brown had to appoint another Republican to replace him. She chose Clarno.

With that background, it's easy to see how it probably went last week. Trout starts mouthing off to Clarno, making her look bad. Clarno looks over at Brown, who thinks back to the 2012 debacle that made her look bad.

Next thing you know, Trout's logging in to LinkedIn.


  1. Now Trout's up against a real mess: filing for unemployment in Oregon.


Post a Comment

The platform used for this blog is awfully wonky when it comes to comments. It may work for you, it may not. It's a Google thing, and beyond my control. Apologies if you can't get through. You can email me a comment at, and if it's appropriate, I can post it here for you.