CHICAGO (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama made a pair of stops Tuesday in the upper Midwest for gubernatorial candidates locked in close contests in Wisconsin and Illinois, encouraging early voting, particularly among young voters, women and minorities.
She spent the first half of Tuesday near the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison to rally young voters for Mary Burke, who's challenging Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Later she stopped in Chicago after attending a small $10,000-a-person fundraiser for Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and played to the hometown crowd before the thousands at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Obama is making a flurry of campaign appearances on behalf of Democratic candidates and said she returned to Wisconsin just eight days after another rally for Burke in Milwaukee because she wanted to tailor her message to young voters. Obama said they should vote for Burke because she will fight to make college more affordable, raise the minimum wage, ensure women receive equal pay to men, and protect abortion rights.
"If women and minorities and young people show up, Mary wins," Obama said to applause from the crowd of about 1,100. "She wins."
Burke is locked in a tight race with Walker, a potential 2016 Republican candidate for president.
In Illinois, the first lady recounted her husband's campaigns for the Illinois state Senate and U.S. Senate. She said she'd cast her ballot for Quinn, in part because of his record for families. She noted efforts to raise the minimum wage, immigration reform and withholding his own paycheck while lawmakers worked on a pension overhaul. Illinois has the worst-funded pension systems of any state nationwide; A law Quinn signed faces court challenges.
The Chicago Democrat is locked into a tight re-election contest with Republican businessman Bruce Rauner, a venture capitalist making a first run for public office. It's one of the most expensive governor's races in the nation. The first lady's visit follows President Barack Obama's visit last week to stump and fundraiser for Quinn with a $50,000-a-person event.
The first lady spoke after a slew of top Illinois Democrats addressed the crowd of more than 5,000 people, including U.S. Sen Dick Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat who's facing a challenge from state Sen. Jim Oberweis.
"This is personal for me. This city, this state, this is my home," Michelle Obama said. "Pat Quinn has Barack's back and now it's time for us to have Pat's back."
Obama has set aside her well-known dislike of politics to campaign at least two days a week for Democratic Senate and gubernatorial candidates. She attended a Boston rally for gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley last week and will be in Michigan later this month to help Senate candidate Gary Peters and gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer.
Democrats have been seeking her help, even as they avoid appearances with her husband, whose job approval rating has sunk to the low 40s. But the first lady is viewed positively by 62 percent of the public, according to the most recent Pew Research Center survey.
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Bauer reported from Madison, Wisconsin.