WASHINGTON (AP) — Aiming to help Democrats in November, President Barack Obama is returning Friday to his hometown of Chicago to raise money for Hillary Clinton and Rep. Tammy Duckworth, who is running for his old Senate seat.
Obama also plans to fill out an early ballot while in Chicago, as Democrats work to encourage supporters to vote early across the country. Just before departing Washington, Obama said he didn’t plan to visit an early voting location, but looked forward to campaigning for Democrats while in Illinois.
So far, the White House has confirmed that Obama will be raising money at three separate events: one for Clinton’s campaign through the Democratic National Committee, one for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and one on Sunday for Duckworth, who is trying to unseat Republican Sen. Mark Kirk.
Kirk won the Senate seat during the 2010 election that swept Democrats out of power in the House and allowed the GOP to make gains in the Senate. He faces a tougher road in a general election, when more Democratic voters cast ballots.
Most public polls suggest Duckworth is leading in the race. Democrats pounced a couple of months ago when Kirk described Obama as “acting like the drug dealer in chief” when the Obama administration delivered $400 million in cash to Iran on the same day Tehran agreed to release American prisoners.
Democratic officials used the comments to tie Kirk to GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, with a party spokesman saying that “hateful and divisive politics have taken over the entire Republican party.” Kirk is not endorsing Trump and has called him “bigoted and racist.”
The Senate race represents one of the Democratic Party’s best hopes this November. Democrats need a net gain of four seats to secure the majority if Clinton wins the presidency, as her vice president would break a tie. The party needs to net five seats if Trump wins.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz told journalists traveling with the president that Duckworth is a friend of Obama’s. Schultz said Obama wants to see her in the Senate because “he thinks she’s a phenomenal public servant” and a “true patriot.”
Before winning election to the House, Duckworth served in the Obama administration as an assistant secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs. She served in Iraq and lost her legs when her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. She spent the next year recovering at the Walter Reed military hospital in Washington.