Paper pub. date
September 2019
ISBN 9780870719738 (paperback)
ISBN 9780870719745 (ebook)
6 x 9, 272 pages.

Catch and Release

An Oregon Life in Politics

Les AuCoin

In 1974, at the age of thirty-two, Les AuCoin became the first Democrat to win a US House seat in Oregon’s First District. He was one of the post-Watergate reformers who shook up an insular, autocratic Congress and led fights for affordable housing, “trickle-up” economics, wilderness protection, abortion rights, and nuclear arms control. In the 1980s, the Oregonian called him “the most powerful congressman in Oregon.”


In this compelling collection of life stories, AuCoin traces his unlikely rise from a fatherless childhood in Central Oregon to the top ranks of national power. Then came a painful defeat in one of the most controversial races in US Senate history, against incumbent Bob Packwood.


A fly fisher, AuCoin uses “catch and release” as a metaphor for succeeding and letting go of loss with dignity and equanimity. His memories are in turn funny, suspenseful, and revealing. AuCoin takes us to the Kremlin, pre-industrial China, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and into the tortuous politics of the Northwest spotted owl crisis. He interacted with world figures like Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, House Speakers Tip O’Neill and Jim Wright, and Oregon legends Tom McCall and Mark Hatfield. Closer to home, AuCoin allied himself with activists like Sidney Lasseigne of the Newport Fishermen’s Wives.


Catch and Release offers readers a revealing glimpse behind the scenes of congressional life, as lived by the 535 souls who inhabit the US House and Senate—including the author, who assesses his own strengths and foibles with humility and candor.


About the author

LES AUCOIN represented Oregon’s First Congressional District in the US House for 18 years, from 1974 until 1992, when he gave up his House seat to run for the Senate. He is the co-author of Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Management and has won awards as a magazine editor and public radio commentator. His freelance articles have appeared in major newspaper throughout the country. He lives in retirement with his wife, Sue, in Portland, Oregon.

Read more about this author

Les was an amazing congressman. Now he shows that he's a master storyteller, too. This gripping personal history is sprinkled with humor and suspense and lyrically told.” —Pat Schroeder, former US Congresswoman, presidential candidate, and president of the American Book Publishers Association.


“Once upon a time in American politics, there was room on Capitol Hill for spirited compromise, principled Republicans, and champions of the have-nots. Les AuCoin lived to write about them, and damn well.”—Steve Duin, longtime Oregonian columnist


Catch and Release is evidence of AuCoin’s writing talent as well as his powers of observation. In this memoir, he exudes a sense of purpose that startles us, because we live in an era defined by cynicism, indecent values and greed.”

—Steve Forrester, former publisher, The Daily Astorian


 “A brilliant memoir, timely and relevant. Historical figures great and not so great come alive on these evocative pages. Fascinating.”

—Robert J. Mrazek, award-winning author of And the Sparrow Fell, A Dawn Like Thunder, and other books


"Our understanding of politics and politicians is vastly improved when a legislator shares his inner-most recollections of his work in Congress. Such asscounts are rare outside the occasional prominent party leader. Their value is immeasurably heightened when the writer is a perceptive and gifted writer. Les AuCoin's Catch and Release is a memoir that all students and scholars of Congress will value for honesty, acument, and skillful storytelling."

—John A. Lawrence, author of The Class of '74: Congress After Watergate the Roots of Partisanship

"Former Congressman Les AuCoin has given readers a reserved front-row seat to some of the most notable challenges of Oregon and US political history. Catch and Release hooks you in Chapter One and holds you until the final chapter... This book tells Oregon political history like it is. It should be required reading for political hopefuls waiting to be tested in the campaign arena.Former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts

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