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Memoir recalls bygone era

Les AuCoin’s political career stretched from the 1968 presidential election, when he organized the Oregon primary campaign of Sen. Eugene McCarthy, to the election of 1992, when he lost a bitter battle to unseat Sen. Bob Packwood.

Along the way, he took part in some of the most consequential issues of his time, starting in the Oregon Legislature, where he was instrumental in passing the Oregon Bottle Bill among others. In Congress, he worked with Sen. Mark Hatfield to pass the 1984 Oregon Wilderness Act and co-sponsored the Oregon Wild and Scenic Rivers expansion and the Columbia Gorge Scenic Protection Act.

AuCoin’s newly released memoir, “Catch and Release,” is well written and easy to read, thanks to his background in journalism. He spent time as a reporter and editor early in life and, much later, wrote an opinion column for the Mail Tribune while teaching at Southern Oregon University. Now living in Portland, he continues to serve on the SOU Board of Trustees.

AuCoin describes a culture of politics that is now rare. AuCoin was and remains a liberal Democrat, but he worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle. He describes a pivotal floor speech by conservative Republican Stafford Hansell in 1973, when Oregon became the first state to decriminalize the possession of marijuana.

“The day when Stafford Hansell spoke still lives in my memory,” AuCoin writes. “It reminds me that in American politics, giants once roamed. Fact-based discourse transcended partisanship ... I have to believe both will return.”

We can only hope.