Catch and Release: An Oregon Life in Politics (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Let’s all be thankful for people like AuCoin who relish public service.  People who know that real change starts from the bottom up, not with those few hundred in the top 1% who control the nations wealth.  People who understand the importance of wilderness and the need to protect it from destruction.  People who make a real difference in the lives of individuals and their country. 

AuCoin did not grow up in privilege.  His father was a gambling man who abandoned his wife and two young sons, leaving them in debt, vulnerable, and on their own. They found a safe harbor with an aunt and uncle in Redmond, Oregon.  Clerking at Safeway his Mom earned enough to move her family into an old 16-foot trailer.  Switching to waitressing, she was able rent a one-bedroom house of dubious construction.  This was a woman who worked hard to put a roof over the head of her children, to find money in a limited budget for food, clothing, and other necessities.  It is a childhood that taught AuCoin respect for the working poor and gave him the empathy necessary to help.

In the 1960’s AuCoin was politicized by monumental events occurring in our country.  Kennedy’s charismatic entreaty to “ask what you can do for your country”.  He was in the Army stationed in Germany when he learned of Kennedy’s assassination.  By the 1970’s he was a Congressman working to make Oregon a better place for all its citizens.

AuCoin was in the thick of things throughout his career, promoting racial equality, gay rights, preservation of wilderness, and so many other important issues.   Catch and Release gives a first hand review of Oregon’s political history. 

This is also the story of a young boy who came from humble beginnings, worked hard, excelled in a difficult game, and achieved accomplishments that were important in so many ways.  It conveys his love of his family, appreciation for nature, and desire to do the right thing.  I don’t think there is anything more we can ask of our legislators.  Being a Congressperson is a tough job, he did it with grace.

— Deon Stonehouse


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 in the US House for 18 years until 1992, when he gave up his seat to run for the Senate. He is an award-winning magazine editor and public radio commentator, and his articles have appeared in major newspapers throughout the country. He lives with his wife, Sue, in Portland, Oregon.

Praise For…

“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 Association of American Publishers

 “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

"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

“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


"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
Product Details
ISBN: 9780870719738
ISBN-10: 0870719734
Publisher: Oregon State University Press
Publication Date: October 1st, 2019
Pages: 272