LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A political group backing Democrat Gretchen Whitmer for governor launched a $1.8 million, five-week TV ad campaign Tuesday, marking the first time she will appeal to viewers before the August primary election.

In the 30-second ad , the former legislative leader says she "fought for working families" in the state Senate, where she helped to raise the minimum wage and expand Medicaid health insurance to more than 600,000 residents. She says there is more to be done, though, such as spending to boost workers' skills and repealing the "retirement tax" — a reference to a 2011 Republican-led tax overhaul that eliminated or reduced exemptions from the taxation of pension and retirement income.

Whitmer, who says her first job was at a lumber yard, is shown speaking inside a carpentry training facility while tradesmen work on projects.

"Working hard and making things, it's what we do in Michigan," she says, adding that job training and rescinding the retirement tax would help "hardworking people earn more and keep more of what they earn."

Whitmer, the last Democrat to go on television in a three-candidate primary, is expected to air traditional campaign ads soon. Businessman and political novice Shri Thanedar has spent millions of his own money statewide on a monthslong ad blitz that had made him better known than her among likely voters in polling released in May, a development that an unconcerned Whitmer has said would change once she went on TV in June. Former Detroit health director Abdul El-Sayed also has run an ad, in the Detroit market, but has spent far less.

The Whitmer-focused ad and an additional one to be aired in coming weeks are being paid for by Build a Better Michigan, a nonprofit organized by Whitmer allies under section 527 of the U.S. tax code. Unlike an independent "super" political action committee, the organization cannot advocate explicitly for her election or the defeat of her opponents but can coordinate more closely with her campaign.

The group can raise unlimited amounts from individuals, corporations or labor unions and must disclose its contributions and expenditures. Build a Better Michigan is spending $500,000 in the first week — the most to date in a single week by any campaign or outside group involved in the gubernatorial race, said president Mark Burton.

The "issue" ad strategy is similar to 2014, when Democrat Mark Schauer appeared in several Democratic Governors Association ads that stopped short of expressly advocating for his election against Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

Snyder cannot run again in 2018 due to term limits. The GOP primary fields includes state Attorney General Bill Schuette, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, state Sen. Patrick Colbeck and Dr. Jim Hines.

El-Sayed, who is courting the party's liberal wing, said in a statement that the pro-Whitmer organization "is an open door for corporate money into our politics. ... We're watching a Democrat use Republican tactics. It's everything that's wrong with our politics." He called it "dark money," though the group must disclose its donors to the IRS unlike other political nonprofits or political action committees. The first report is due July 15.

El-Sayed spokesman Adam Joseph said some of the funds could still be "dark" if groups that give to the 527 nonprofit do not have to report their donors.

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