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Murphy service includes lobbyist’s prayer

By David Wildstein, January 08 2018 2:35 am

An interfaith prayer service in honor of Gov.-elect Phil Murphy will include a prayer given by an influential Trenton lobbyist and Democratic strategist who is also an ordained interfaith minister.

Pastor Idida Rodriguez is a partner at Essex County Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones’ Trenton lobbying firm, 1868 Associates.  Well respected as a political operative, she spent six years as Nellie Pou’s chief of staff, and has worked on several statewide and congressional races.  Her biography does not mention that she is affiliated with any church, although an event for the Jersey City Employment and Training Program last year lists her affiliation as IGNITE Ministries. She studied at the One Spirit Faith Seminary in Manhattan, according to her Facebook page.

Rodriguez is also on the board of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, which denounced GOP candidate Kim Guadagno’s TV ad on sanctuary cities last October.  The organization is also supporting Senate confirmation of two Murphy cabinet picks.

Also offering a prayer is the Rev. Louise Scott-Rountree, who works for Newark Mayor Ras Baraka in the Mayor’s Office of Clergy Affairs.  She used to answer the phone at City Hall when Cory Booker was mayor, and is also an Associate Minister at the Good Neighbor Baptist Church in Newark.

The Executive Director of Murphy’s inaugural committee, Elizabeth Gilbert, is reportedly slated to become the Executive Director of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee.  I’m told her appointment has rattled Democratic State Chairman John Currie and part of his inner circle.

The prayer service, part of Murphy’s five-day “inaugural experience” will be held at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark at noon on Friday.

In 1998, pro-life activists tried to block pro-choice Gov. Christine Todd Whitman from holding her pre-inaugural prayer service at the Basilica.  Theodore McCarrick, then the Archbishop of Newark, sided with Whitman. Several dozen protesters showed up anyway.

Also offering prayers for Murphy and Lt. Gov.-elect Sheila Oliver are Imam Daud Haqq of the NIA Masjid & Community Center in Newark, Rabbi Cliff Kulwin of Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston, and Ashok Dave, a Hindu priest from Cherry Hill.

The inaugural committee – whose slogan is “A Stronger and Fairer New Jersey,” will also hold a prayer service on Tuesday morning at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton.

Pastor Idida Rodriguez leads State Sen. Sandra Cunningham and former Gov. Jim McGreevey in prayer at the grand opening of a restaurant in Jersey City.


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