RICHMOND, Va. — First lady Jill Biden is giving Democrat Terry McAuliffe a boost in the final stretch of his campaign.
Mrs. Biden joined Mr. McAuliffe in Henrico County, outside of Richmond, on Friday, pitching him as the candidate that will bring people together.
“We know Terry,” Mrs. Biden said. “We know his values. We know his heart. He‘s worked with Republicans to make investments in education, improve transportation, and strengthen your workforce. He knows how to bring people together because that’s the only way to get things done.”
Mrs. Biden is among a handful of high-profile Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, who are campaigning for Mr. McAuliffe in the next two weeks before Election Day.
Mr. McAuliffe is facing Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin in what’s considered a closely contested race.
Others who spoke at the rally included Democratic Lt. Gov. nominee Hala Ayala, Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger, and Virginia Democratic Chairwoman Susan Swecker.
Mrs. Biden’s presence on the political stage indicates a shift from her predecessor, Melania Trump, who played a less visible role as first lady.
Stacy Cordery, a history professor at Iowa State University who studies first ladies, said Mrs. Biden’s presence on the campaign trail is a return to traditional aspects of the office.
“The first lady’s job description, most broadly, is to support the president,” Ms. Cordery said. “And in his role as head of the party, for the first lady to campaign on behalf of other members of the party, it falls under that.”
Speaking to the crowd, Mrs. Biden also made a plug for her husband, sharing conversations she had about people she said who were worried about their future, but had been hopeful of the president’s promises.
She touted Mr. Biden’s relationship with current Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.
“They told me that they had faith in Joe Biden, that he could change the course of this country,” Mrs. Biden said. “He worked hand in hand with Gov. Northam to make sure Virginia received the help it needed.”
Some supporters in the crowd commended Mrs. Biden for her teaching career, which she’s continued while serving as first lady.
Mrs. Biden is the first first lady to continue a full-time career by teaching English at Northern Virginia Community College’s Alexandria campus, while also maintaining the duties of her office.
Katherine Sibley, an American Studies professor at St. Joseph’s University, said Mrs. Biden’s built-in presence in the state enhances her legitimacy as part of Mr. McAuliffe’s campaign.
“She is a popular figure there and her message, especially as an educator, I think will resonate very strongly,” Ms. Sibley said. “She’s been around Virginia for a long time teaching there, and been visible so I think definitely her position will be helpful to Terry McAuliffe.”
Stewart Gamage, 70, of Richmond, said Mrs. Biden’s dedication to teaching is one aspect of her she admired.
“I think it’s great for women,” Ms. Gamage said. “She’s one of the first first ladies that’s actually continued her work.”
Bruce Gould, 68, of Richmond, mirrored Ms. Gamage’s sentiment, commending her for her teaching career that’s she kept even while Mr. Biden was serving as vice president.
“While she was second lady, she continued to teach at Northern Virginia Community College and she still is today,” Mr. Gould said. “[She] is a dedicated individual.”
Virginia Republicans attacked Mrs. Biden’s appearance, citing their concerns with Mr. Biden’s administration.
“While Jill Biden is in Henrico, she should be speaking with families hurting because of her husband’s out-of-control spending and bad policies,” said Tina Ramirez, a GOP candidate for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, which houses Henrico County.
A group of hecklers, who appeared to be climate activists, also briefly disrupted the event and were escorted out by security.
A campaign official later confirmed the group was from Minnesota.
Mr. McAuliffe, who served as the state’s governor from 2014 to 2018, zeroed in on his education plan, which he’s made central to his campaign since he announced his run in December.
The former governor pitched raising teacher pay and expanding pre-K programs.
“I’m going to make sure that every single child in Virginia has a world-class education,” Mr. McAuliffe said.
Mr. McAuliffe also thanked Mrs. Biden for her appearance, noting her Virginia ties to teaching in the state and also making Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond her first official visit outside of Washington, D.C., in February.
“[She] kicked off this new part of her political life to come out and help all of us win,” Mr. McAuliffe said. “Where is she back again? She‘s back here in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Early voting is underway in Virginia and polls indicate that the race is at a dead heat.
A CBS News/YouGov poll taken Oct. 4-11 had Mr. McAuliffe with 50% support compared to Mr. Youngkin’s 47%.
The poll surveyed 1,040 likely voters and had an error margin of 4.1 percentage points, an amount greater than Mr. McAuliffe’s 3-point edge, making the poll a statistical tie.