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Murray Center supporters say Rauner victory is a win for them

Supporters of the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center in Centralia say the defeat of Gov. Pat Quinn in Tuesday’s election should keep the state-operated center open.

Quinn’s administration has been in the process of closing the center for adults with developmental disabilities as part of an effort to cut state costs and give the residents housing options that are more integrated into society. Parents of Murray Center residents, along with employees and other supporters, have fought hard to keep the center open, even taking it to federal court.

With Republican Bruce Rauner’s win Tuesday over the Democrat Quinn, Murray Center supporters are confident the facility will remain open. Rauner visited the center in April and pledged to keep it open, and even gave a $5,000 donation to the Murray Parent Association for their court fight.

Rita Winkeler, president of the Murray Parent Association, said the Rauner win is “definitely a victory for us.”

She added, “He did tell us he would keep Murray open. I believe he’s somebody we can work with to keep the center open.”

State Rep. Charlie Meier, an Okawville Republican who has worked to keep Murray open, called the Rauner victory “a huge win” for Murray Center.

“Bruce Rauner stoop up there in Centralia and pledged to us that he’d keep Murray Center open. I believe we can take the man at his word,” Meier said.

Meier said he was hoping to have a phone conversation soon with Rauner regarding the center.

A Rauner spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the Murray Center issue when contacted Wednesday. On the campaign trail, Rauner often criticized Quinn for tax increases. Rauner’s critics, however, said the Republican was making a lot of promises on spending with no clear plan of how to pay for them.

Rauner, when he visited the center in April and attended a fundraiser for the supporters, told them: “State government usually doesn't do too much well, but this is a place that was warm, embracing, and encouraging... I wish all facilities connected to our state government were so wonderful.”

He added: “What’s crystal-clear is, these politicians are playing games with your kids’ lives and your family members’ lives. Great societies, moral societies, take care of their neediest citizens.”

Murray Center supporters have been critical of Quinn for refusing to visit the center with them.

Murray Center currently has about 500 employees and about 225 residents. There had been about 250 residents, but some have already been moved to other homes.

After Rauner announced his Murray Center support, the Quinn campaign called it a “shameless” political ploy. Quinn campaign spokeswoman Izabela Miltko said at the time: “This guy will say anything depending on his audience, and now is playing politics with the quality of people’s lives.”

In July, a federal judge ruled that the state could proceed with its closure of Murray Center. But after the ruling, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services, which operates the center, said the closure was on indefinite hold, and that there was no definite timetable for the closing process. The campaign season was starting to get into gear at that time.

Centralia is in Marion and Clinton counties. Rauner got about 75 percent of the vote in those two counties.