First Lady Michelle Obama campaigned in Detroit Friday for a number of Michigan Democrats up for office in the Nov. 4 election. Her 30-minute speech followed short addresses by candidates and prominent figures including Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and U.S. Rep. John Dingell.

The speakers underlined the necessity to not only vote, but encourage voting among, as Obama said, “your family, your neighbors and folks from church.” Obama referenced her husband’s election in 2008 when record numbers of typically underrepresented demographics voted.

“Now, a lot of people were shocked when Barack won, you remember that?” Obama said, the crowd roaring “Yeah!” “They were shocked, because they were counting on folks like us to stay home, but we proved them wrong, because record numbers of minorities and women and young people showed up and voted.”

This election is especially crucial for the Michigan Democratic Party. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, whose right to work legislation was repeatedly criticized during Friday’s campaign event, is up for reelection against challenger Mark Schauer, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Longtime Senator Carl Levin (D) is also vacating his seat. U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, the Democratic nominee to succeed Levin, will face Terri Lynn Land, former Michigan Secretary of State and Republican nominee for the Senate seat, in November. If Land wins, she would be the first Republican to represent Michigan in the U.S. Senate since 2000.

Despite the two Democrats representing Michigan in the U.S. Senate, Republicans dominate in state politics. Attorney General Bill Schuette (R), whose seat is being challenged by Mark Totten, has fought high-profile battles against same-sex marriage and affirmative action. Michigan Republicans have a majority in the State Senate and House.

The speakers emphasized the need to vote by criticizing Republican policies that they say have hurt the middle class, minorities, women and the elderly.

“If we don’t elect leaders like Gary and Mark, we know exactly what will happen,” Obama said. “We can’t pretend like we don’t know. We will have more people interfering in women’s private decisions about our health care. We will see more opposition to immigration reform, to raising the minimum wage for hardworking folks right here in this state.”

Many speeches culminated in chants like “When we vote, we win.” The energized crowd was apt to get on their feet and clap, or cheer during speeches. Many of Obama’s statements were affirmed by audience members who cried “That’s right!” or “Yes, we can.”

Lifelong Detroit resident Wendy Yuille said the Democratic candidates this election resonate with her. Yuille was unemployed last year and said her benefits were compromised by gridlock in Congress.

“There’s no one advocating for people, the day to day people, the people who are just trying to work 40 hours a week, do an honest day’s work for an honest day pay,” Yuille said. “Who speaks for us?”

Croswell resident Gloria Finnegan drove two hours to Detroit for the event with her husband. A retired teacher from the Dearborn school district, Finnegan said she supports Democratic candidates who fight for pay equity, minimum wage and legalized abortion.

Senator Debbie Stabenow, who is not up for reelection, was one speaker who emphasized the equalizing nature of elections.

“Republicans are hoping they can buy the election with their billionaire buddies but the great thing about our country is that it doesn’t matter how much money you have in your pocket when you get to the polls,” Stabenow said. “Everyone gets one vote.”

Speakers also touched on the Affordable Care Act, recovering U.S. automotive industry, pay equity and pensions for retired persons.

Obama discussed the challenging economic climate at the time of her husband’s inauguration in 2009 and highlighted that unemployment across the nation has fallen from about 10 percent in Oct. 2009 to 5.9 percent in September.

“So, Michigan, while we still have plenty of work to do, we have truly made so much of that change we were talking about,” Obama said.

Education and its loss of funding in recent years were discussed; however, higher education was not specifically promoted by most of the speakers or Obama.

The first lady also discussed the need to ensure America is a safe and supportive environment for children. She mentioned children she has met who must face trying home lives and dangerous neighborhoods while attempting to succeed.

“These kids have every reason to give up, but they are so hungry to succeed,” Obama said. “They are so desperate to lift themselves up. What we have to remember is that they are the reason we are here today. That’s why I’m here, I don’t know about you, but I’m here for those kids who never give up. And we can’t give up on our kids.”

Michigan has recently hosted other famous faces looking to promote their party. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney visited Livonia last week to campaign for Michigan politicians. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to visit Michigan next week and rumors abound that President Barack Obama himself will stop in the state before the Nov. 4 election.

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