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Catch and Release

An Oregon Life in Politics

Les AuCoin

6 × 9. 272 pages.

2019. ISBN 978-0-87071-973-8. Paperback, $24.95.


Available September 2019

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


In this highly readable 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. But AuCoin’s tale does not end there.


A fly fisher, AuCoin uses "catch and release" as a metaphor that speaks to all of us—succeeding and letting go of loss with dignity and equanimity. His memories are in turn funny, suspenseful, and revealing. AuCoin’s journey takes him 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 global figures like Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan, legislative leaders such as House Speakers Tip O’Neill and Jim Wright, Oregon legends Tom McCall and Mark Hatfield, and, closer to home, activists like Sidney Lasseigne of the Newport Fishermen’s Wives. Each of these individuals helped mold international, national, and state politics.


In Catch and Release, readers will get a 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.

Member of AAUP