CHICAGO (WLS) --In a Southwest Side shopping mall, Jason Gonzales continued his Democratic primary campaign for 22nd district state representative Thursday.
It is the seat held for the past 45 years by Mike Madigan, the long-serving Illinois House Speaker and arguably the most powerful politician in Illinois.
"It's very clear that Speaker Madigan is worried," Gonzales said. "It's time for a new representative who is going to fight for people in the district and bring their concerns to the forefront."
Gonzales says Speaker Madigan - who is in a bitter budget fight with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner - has neglected the district, which is now predominantly Latino.
"That's what I see, Latino's are here and we gonna vote for him now," said Martin Zarate, 22nd District resident.
"I have a bachelor's degree from Duke. I have a master's degree from MIT in business and I have a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University," Gonzales said.
But Madigan's campaign has produced a cable television ad and mailed voters at least 30 pieces focused on Gonzales' credit card fraud convictions and jail time served as a teenager.
"I find it very offensive that he's actually going back over 20 years to dig up stuff and throw it back in my face. I paid the price and I turned by life around," Gonzales said.
A Madigan spokesman called Gonzales "a Rauner plant" financed by the republican governor's allies.
"It's not true. I've never met the governor. I am an independent Democrat," Gonzales said.
Alice Colon is a longtime Madigan voter who plans to do so again this year.
"Because he said he's going to help the minorities," she said.
Gonzales estimates the speaker - the state democratic chairman - has outspent his campaign by 30 to one. He compared the race to the biblical David and Goliath story.
"I'm David and certainly Speaker Madigan is Goliath. But we saw what happened to Goliath," he said.
There will be two other 22nd District candidates on the March 15 ballot. Joe Barbosa and Grasiela Rodriguez were unreachable for this story.
Gonzales has said the other candidates were planted in the race by Speaker Madigan to dilute the Latino vote.
The Madigan campaign has denied the allegation.