First lady Michelle Obama implored a ballroom full of Democrats in Northern Virginia on Thursday to give their time and money to Terry McAuliffe, boosting the coffers of his gubernatorial campaign.

With five months to go before he faces Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) on the November ballot, McAuliffe enlisted Obama to help at an evening fundraiser at the Sheraton Premiere hotel in Tysons Corner. With turnout uncertain in Virginia’s off-year election, McAuliffe is seeking to maximize his support among two key voting blocs: women and African Americans.

Roughly 400 people attended the event, according to the McAuliffe campaign, and the invitation said ticket prices ranged from $100 for an individual guest to $1,000 for a “VIP” couple. McAuliffe has been known for his fundraising skills since his days as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and he has consistently outraised Cuccinelli in what has become this year’s marquee political contest.

Both McAuliffe and Obama stressed the importance of getting people to the polls. “It matters that everyone who came out and voted in 2012 comes out again in 2013,” McAuliffe said as he introduced his headlining guest.

Michelle Obama said President Obama “absolutely needs folks like Terry McAuliffe here in Virginia. We need all of you to do everything you can between now and November to get Terry elected. . . . We need you to keep on writing those checks, and if you haven’t maxed out yet, max out! Get your friends to max out, too!”

Candidate guide to the 2013 Virginia primary election

On a personal level, she praised McAuliffe as a “fighter.”

“Terry knows what it means to work hard and struggle to get ahead like so many of us,” she said. “He started working at 14 years old, and I’m going to tell Malia that. She needs to get up in the morning!”

“No one is going to fight harder for Virginia, and that is why I am so thrilled that he’s going to be the next governor of Virginia.”

Michelle Obama’s appearance came two days after she confronted a heckler at a fundraiser at a private home in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood. Ellen Sturtz, a lesbian activist, shouted at her during her speech in hopes of getting President Obama to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

There were no such interruptions Thursday, though at one point a woman yelled, “I love you Michelle!” Obama pointed at her and said, “We love you too.”

Hours before the event with Michelle Obama, McAuliffe made a separate bid to appeal to female voters and announced a proposal to bolster workforce discrimination laws in Virginia.

His plan calls for tougher penalties on employers who violate equal pay laws and increased payouts to women who have been discriminated against. He said the changes would “send the strong message to women that as Virginians, we want their talents in the workforce, and to businesses, that we attracted and retained the best and brightest workforce with fair laws and strong pro-business policies.”

Cuccinelli spokeswoman Anna Nix said her boss was focused on his own, previously announced economic plan, which “creates opportunities for all Virginians. His plan will ease the burden on middle-class families and allow them to keep more of their hard-earned money and let businesses expand and create more jobs for unemployed Virginians.”