Bente Birkeland

Capitol Coverage Reporter for Rocky Mountain Community Radio

Bente Birkeland has covered Colorado politics and government since spring of 2006. She loves the variety and challenge of the state capitol beat and talking to people from all walks of life. Bente's work has aired on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered, American Public Media'sMarketplace, and she was a contributor for WNYC's The Next Big Thing. She has won numerous local and national awards, including best beat reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors. Bente grew up in Minnesota and England, and loves skiing, hiking, and is an aspiring cello player. She lives in Lakewood with her husband.

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The Bureau of Land Management, environmentalists, and the energy industry have reached an agreement on a proposal to drill for oil and gas on the Roan Plateau. The new plan cancels 17 out of 19 oil and gas leases that were issued in 2008. Two previous leases at the top of the plateau, and a dozen at the base will remain in place.

"These measures allow us to protect the plateau but harness some of the energy resources," said Governor John Hickenlooper.

The two candidates for Colorado's 2nd Congressional District, which includes Northern Colorado and the mountains west of Denver, faced off Tuesday during a CBS 4 and Colorado Public Television debate. It's the last TV exposure for a race that hasn't received much attention between incumbent Democrat Jared Polis and his Republican challenger, George Leing.

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With early voting well underway, Colorado's gubernatorial candidates staked out their positions one last time during at their eighth and final debate Friday. Hosted by CBS Denver 4 and Colorado Public Television, the topics were rather routine - except for the issue of public safety. That's where things got heated.

Latinos make up about twenty percent of Colorado's population and continue to be a highly courted voting bloc. It's a group that more frequently votes for Democrats, but Latinos also turn out less often in midterm elections like 2014.

Republicans have long been trying to make inroads with Latino voters – especially in competitive states like Colorado – where a small number of votes could swing key races for the U.S. Senate and Governor.

While much of the attention the 2014 election season has been focused on Colorado's Senate and gubernatorial races, voters will also be deciding the fates of four statewide ballot questions. One of those questions seeks to expand gambling at racetracks to help fund K-12 education.

If approved, Amendment 68 would allow horse race tracks in Arapahoe, Mesa and Pueblo counties to offer slot machines, roulette, craps, and card games such as blackjack and poker. Arapahoe Park in Aurora is at the center of the campaign.

Former Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez is facing a close race against Governor John Hickenlooper in his gubernatorial bid. Back in 2006, he made several missteps in his campaign for governor, but in this 2014 run he's run a much tighter ship.

After four years in office Governor John Hickenlooper is facing the toughest campaign of his political career. A recent poll from The Denver Post shows his race against Republican former Congressman Bob Beauprez statistically tied. What's more, Beauprez is also making gains on Hickenlooper in the Denver metro area and in rural Colorado.

With Colorado's U.S. Senate race too close to call, both parties are on an all-out blitz to court as many voters as they can prior to the November election. The youth vote has traditionally helped Democrats, but Republicans see an opening with national support for President Obama falling among the millennial generation.

Colorado's U.S. Senate race is a considered by many to be a tossup. Incumbent Senator Mark Udall and Republican Congressman Cory Gardner are trying to win over as many key voting blocs as they can before Election Day – and that includes women.

In the previous close Senate contest between appointed Democratic Senator Michael Bennet and Republican Ken Buck, women played a critical role. During the waning days of that 2010 race, Bennet focused his attention on the female vote – and narrowly won. With women making up 51.4 percent of all registered voters in Colorado this election, it's a scenario Democrats are hoping to repeat.

The Colorado Board of Health has voted against setting maximum patient caps for medical marijuana caregivers. The proposed rule would have limited caregivers to just 10 patients. After a tense and at times tearful hearing Tuesday, the board said the change was unnecessary.

In a news conference Monday Governor John Hickenlooper, alongside Democratic Congressman Jared Polis and other supporters, announced a deal on local control for oil and gas, heading off a showdown on the November ballot.

Colorado voters will once again decide on an amendment that would give unborn babies the same constitutional and legal rights as a person. The measure is bringing out some familiar faces – it’s also impacting one of the closest U.S. Senate races in the country.

Colorado’s economy and job growth are already shaping up to play a central role in the November gubernatorial race. Both candidates are using their own figures to assess how the state is faring as it recovers from the recession.

Fresh off a primary victory where he bested former Congressman Tom Tancredo, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, and former state senate minority leader Mike Kopp, Bob Beauprez discussed some of the key issues in the upcoming governors campaign: from energy and the environment to guns and capital punishment.

The race to be Colorado’s next Governor is officially underway. Former Congressman Bob Beauprez will challenge Governor John Hickenlooper in November after winning a four way GOP primary race. Beauprez captured a four-point lead over his closest challenger, Tom Tancredo.

Colorado’s primary election is Tuesday June 24, and in many ways it marks the beginning of the political season that will culminate in November. Two GOP primary races are being closely watched.

There’s often a divide between Colorado’s rural lawmakers and those representing larger communities along the urban Front Range. That dynamic was apparent during the 2014 legislative session with Republicans routinely blaming Democrats for waging what they said is a "war on rural Colorado."

Governor John Hickenlooper’s office said he’s still in discussions about whether to call lawmakers back to the state capitol for a special session on oil and gas issues. The goal would be to pass a compromise bill and avoid a fight at the ballot box.

Four candidates are vying for the Republican Party’s nomination in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District after U.S. Representative Cory Gardner’s surprise decision to run for the U.S. Senate against Democratic Senator Mark Udall.

CBS 4 and Colorado Public Television recently hosted a debate with the four GOP candidates competing in the conservative and vast district that stretches from Wyoming all the way to New Mexico and the Kansas border.

Four Republicans are vying to be the lone candidate to run against Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper in the fall. But with the primary election coming up June 24, only two of the candidates participated in a taped debate hosted by CBS 4 and Colorado Public Television.

Debate organizers knew ahead of time that former congressman Tom Tancredo never planned to be a part of the hourlong program. But Secretary of State Scott Gessler didn’t show up – even though his campaign confirmed that he would.

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