CHICAGO (CBS) — When state Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) met Thursday night for a 90-minute debate with 5th District Democratic primary challenger Juliana Stratton, virtually every topic circled back eventually to Dunkin’s estrangement from Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Dunkin said the gridlock in Springfield can be traced to one man — Madigan.

“It’s one person. It’s not the governor. It’s Mike Madigan,” Dunkin said. “The Speaker simply only listens to his own thought process.”

Dunkin said when he and other Democrats have asked Madigan in caucus why the Speaker has not been willing to sit down with Rauner to discuss budget issues, “He looks at me and other members as if we have third eyes.”

Dunkin said he’s trying to negotiate with the governor, but Stratton said Dunkin is merely hurting people, citing his refusal to cast the deciding vote on a bill that would have restored full child care assistance to low-income Illinois families while budget negotiations continued.

“There was another alternative. He could have voted,” she said. “He could have been there for the vote and restored the services to 100 percent, and instead, that didn’t happen.”

Stratton said she’d be in her seat in the House chambers for “the big votes, and the other votes.”

The candidates agreed that the state must find additional sources of revenue. Stratton showed more enthusiasm for a Chicago casino than Dunkin, Stratton saying it would merely bring gamblers’ losses home from Indiana. Dunkin said he would support a Chicago-based casino only if it is tightly run and said no such bill has surfaced.

Dunkin said Illinois must provide more job incentives, while Stratton argued in favor of a graduated income tax. Dunkin said his constituents tell him they’re “taxed out.”

But in the end, everything was about Speaker Madigan.

Stratton told those who attended the forum, hosted by the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance at the Second Presbyterian Church, 1936 S. Michigan Av., that if she is elected she will take constituents’ ideas to Springfield and would not assume that “one person” could create gridlock.

Dunkin said he would continue to raise questions, if returned for an eighth term, “because I was able to come off of the party plantation — and there is a plantation down there, whether we like it or not.”

That comment drew cheers and applause from some in the crowd. Stratton said she found the characterization “offensive.”

Stratton also questioned Dunkin’s fitness for office in another area, claiming he’s had issues for years with women. Dunkin called it a lie and said it’s one more example of a campaign full of “low blows and shenanigans.”

“If that’s all you have to talk about, keeping bringing it,” he said. “I think you for it, by the way. And you’re going to have to answer to God for it, young lady.”