- Associated Press - Sunday, November 2, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois’ major gubernatorial candidates used the last Sunday before Election Day making final pitches to cast early ballots at Chicago churches and in cities statewide, with Gov. Pat Quinn continuing his push to raise the minimum wage and Republican Bruce Rauner focusing on education.

Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, started his first of seven Chicago church visits, at a black megachurch where he noted his support of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama to congregants. Both have made several appearances in Illinois for Quinn, including on Saturday when the first lady attended a Quinn rally in Moline.

Quinn hit on one of his major campaign themes: raising the state’s $8.25 minimum wage to at least $10. He mixed in biblical verses and stories about Martin Luther King Jr.’s time in Chicago in his address to congregants of Apostolic Church of God.

“This is a fundamental principle of social justice,” Quinn said of raising the minimum wage when speaking to reporters afterward.

Sunday marked the final day of early voting in Illinois and both candidates stressed it as a way to get base supporters to cast ballots in the run up to Election Day. The Tuesday matchup between Quinn, who’s seeking a second full term, and Rauner, a venture capitalist seeking public office for the first time, is one of the most competitive governor’s races nationwide.

Rauner visited four Chicago churches before heading to East Alton, Peoria and Hickory Hills. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie - who is also head of the Republican Governors Association - was scheduled to join Rauner in East Alton. Christie has been to Illinois several times for Rauner and other Republicans.

Rauner has campaigned on a promise to clean up Springfield and has said his background as a businessman will help him boost Illinois’ economic climate. He attended New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church on the city’s South Side with several family members, including his wife, Diana Rauner. She called education the “civil rights issue of our time.”

Bruce Rauner played up his years of donating to education and said he’d raise the minimum wage. Rauner has changed his stance on minimum wage several times during the campaign, initially saying he’d cut it. He now backs an increase in conjunction with other reforms.

“I’m frustrated that our government in Springfield is not working for you,” he told the largely black congregation. “It’s not working for any family.”

Both candidates have planned statewide tours on Monday, with Rauner slated to appear with former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar. Quinn said his tour would include stops in Chicago, Peoria, Rockford and Marion.

Libertarian candidate Chad Grimm of Peoria said he spent the weekend doing interviews and scheduled a Chicago news conference for Monday afternoon.

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Follow Sophia Tareen at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen.

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