NB Politicus

Landlord Group’s “cage fight between Lamont & Zherka” remark stumps the press, brings apology to Governor

There’s No Mystery About Who Sam Zherka Is In New Britain

By John McNamara

West Hartford-based Connecticut Coalition of Property Owners (CCOPO) had to issue a quick apology on May 19th over its first version of a press release opposing an eviction moratorium and use of $400 million in federal pandemic aid to landlords and tenants, according to a Hartford Courant story by Daniela Altamari.

“The governor needs his ass-kicked,” stated the initial release sent to the Capitol press corps announcing a press conference later in the week, “and we set up a celebratory cage fight between Lamont & Zherka to raise funds for orphaned children.” The “bizarre” statement was followed by CCOPO’s condemnation of the Unite Connecticut program that is meant to provide both tenants and landlords with help paying bills in the recovery from the pandemic.

The January 13, 2013 front page of the now defunct New Britain City Journal that was backed by notorious landlord Sam Zherka at the height of a housing controversy in New Britain.

The reference to “Zherka” left reporters and editors who received the press statement puzzled. At first, news stories speculated that it referred to Jon Zherka, a controversial and banned social media streamer.

But in New Britain there is no mystery as to who CCOPO was referring to in its provocative public statement.

The name Zherka brings back memories of a well organized mob descending on City Hall in 2012 over a proposal to assess fees on absentee landlords to pay for code enforcement. The issue led to scurrilous, months’ long attacks and threats against the Democratic Mayor and City Council during the 2013 municipal campaign. It was a dark money political attack aided and abetted by the Waterbury-based CT Property Owners Alliance and Selim “Sam” Zherka, an absentee landlord who would later be indicted and jailed for mail fraud in New York.

Nine years ago Zherka owned a large apartment complex in New Britain and lent heavy support to the now defunct New Britain City Journal which carried unfounded accusations and personal attacks on Democrats in a well-financed direct mail, free circulation campaign supported by Zherka and out of town landlords, who pledged a $100,000 off the books fund to defeat Democrats. The New Britain Republican Town Committee and Erin Stewart were quick to embrace Zherka and absentee landlord support in her first, successful campaign for Mayor and she’s never looked back.

To clean up the “cage fight between Lamont & Zherka” statement this month, Publicist Ann Baldwin did her best at damage control for the CCOPO, which had also stridently taken issue with the Unite Connecticut program by saying “the people that are not paying never intended to pay so there is no reason for them to apply for the funds, these tenants are most of the 19,000 that try to live for free annually in CT.”

Baldwin’s revision softened the group’s position, according to press reports, by saying the landlords’ goal is just to “keep good people living in their homes” and calling for the Lamont administration to “fully fund” the eviction moratorium.” CCOPO President John Souza backtracked further in an apology saying “I would never condone violence against the Governor or anyone else, even in jest.”

In response to the first CCOPO release the CT Fair Housing Center’s blog responded: “This attitude illustrates both the need for a Right to Counsel for tenants facing eviction as well as why the Governor and/or Connecticut legislature should require landlords to participate in Unite CT. Tenants must be protected from the landlords who believe that the Governor “needs his ass-kicked” because he dared to protect vulnerable Connecticut residents. Please join us as we work to ensure that tenants are protected from the landlords who believe tenants deserve to be punished for being poor.”

The flap over a press release shows that it’s never an easy task for government to fairly balance the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. The pandemic has caused hardships on all sides and made evictions a serious threat to thousands of rentpayers. While the Governor extended an eviction moratorium until July 20, the administration is ramping up the Unite Connecticut program that enables both landlords and tenants to get pandemic aid for their losses.

CCOPO describes itself as a “constructive voice for responsible landlords” for “mom and pop” business people who presumably could benefit from the Unite CT program while keeping tenants in their homes.

But invoking the Zherka name as unintentional as it was shows that some members of the landlord group may not be interested in fairness or playing by the rules at all. Nobody knows that better than folks in New Britain who lived through the Zherka-led, local assault on democracy here that bears a striking resemblance to the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th of this year


’06 Postscript: Lamont Still A Voice To Challenge Conventional Wisdom

Posted in Lamont by nbpoliticus on April 27, 2007


Ned Lamont, returning to New Britain for the first time since his U.S. Senate campaign last year, addressed a packed room of students and faculty at CCSU’s Marcus White Hall on April 26th.

Invited by History and Philosophy faculty to speak on “Challenging the Conventional Wisdom”, Lamont recounted how he decided to run against incumbent Joe Lieberman after failing to persuade more seasoned politicians to take on an 18-year incumbent who had become increasingly aloof from rank and file CT Democrats. The turning point, Lamont said as he did often on the campaign trail, was Lieberman’s late 2005 admonition: “It’s time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge he’ll be commander in chief for three more years. We undermine the president’s credibility at our own peril.” When he heard those words, Ned Lamont knew he could not abide “George Bush’s favorite Democrat” any more. Having held just a town office in Greenwich, the upstart Lamont decided he would have to give the Democratic Party the much needed debate over the U.S. course in Iraq it yearned for. As the campaign moved from winter to spring in 2006, Lamont found that Lieberman’s increasing estrangement from the people who put him in the Senate back in 1988 was real and growing.

Appearing at ease and reflective during his CCSU appearance, Lamont said his overtures about a Lieberman challenge were dismissed out of hand by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Lamont’s assertions that Lieberman was undermining other Democrats and walking lockstep with the GOP fell on deaf ears within the party hierarchy at the state and national level.

The Greenwich Democrat, who is a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government this semester with former Cong. Nancy Johnson (R-New Britain), credited the internet bloggers for fueling what became a grassroots movement that led to his improbable victory in the August 8th Democratic Primary.

Lamont’s primary win, many have since contended, gave Democrats a spine and the gumption to forcefully take on the Bush administration over Iraq. It certainly spawned an unprecedented upsurge in voter registrations in favor of the Democrats. Arguably, the Lamont general election campaign gave Joe Courtney his razor-thin win in the 2nd Congressional District and helped propel Chris Murphy’s overwhelming win in the 5th Congressional District. With Lieberman as the Democratic nominee the Democratic message and the important contrasts to be made between Democrats and Republicans would have been blurred considerably.

In the general election Lamont conceded he may have been hurt by Lieberman’s emphasis on “experience”, and the incumbent’s hammering home the message of “bringing home the bacon.” Lamont said his campaign sought to counter Lieberman with his own experiences in building a business and challenging the go-along and get-along atmosphere of Washington, which was not being particularly responsive to the state’s problems in transportation, job dislocation and health coverage.

The decisive factor in the General Election, Lamont reminded an appreciative audience at CCSU, was the failure of the Republican nominee, Alan Schlesinger, to break over single digits as a percentage of the final vote. From July onward last year the Republican Party abandoned its nominee to line up behind “George Bush’s favorite Democrat”, a development that gave Lieberman the barely 50% he needed to win another term.

Last November a New Britain Democrat commentary assessed the impact of Lamont’s candidacy immediately after the votes were counted:

“Ned Lamont lost the electoral battle last Tuesday but his upstart candidacy and winning of the Democratic nomination helped start a movement within the Democratic Party that may win the peace in Iraq sooner rather than later and helped define the 2006 election in favor of Democrats. The ouster of Donald Rumsfeld last Wednesday was a sign that policy change is coming fast. The entry of grown ups (the Baker/Hamilton Iraq study group) into the Oval office are the beginning of the end of the Cheney/Lieberman policy of neoconservatism and intransigence. In Connecticut, Lamont, calling out Lieberman on his many accommodations with the GOP Administration, has inspired thousands of people to become involved, including newcomers to the New Britain Democratic Town Committee, who will stay involved for future elections.”

Ned Lamont, speaking as if he yearned to be on the stump campaigning again, ended his 30-minute talk by challenging his mostly young audience to take on conventional wisdom themselves. He let it be known that there will be no “woulda, coulda or shoulda” for him when he looks back on 2006. By choosing to challenge an incumbent U.S. Senator who thought he could ignore his base, Lamont used his own considerable resources to lead a grassroots movement that contributed to a change of power in Congress and inspired thousands of people to become involved in the political process. And his talk at the CCSU campus showed that he’s not done rocking the boat nor being a prominent voice in the Democratic Party.

’06 Postscript: Lamont Still A Voice To Challenge Conventional Wisdom

Posted in Lamont by nbpoliticus on April 27, 2007


Ned Lamont, returning to New Britain for the first time since his U.S. Senate campaign last year, addressed a packed room of students and faculty at CCSU’s Marcus White Hall on April 26th.

Invited by History and Philosophy faculty to speak on “Challenging the Conventional Wisdom”, Lamont recounted how he decided to run against incumbent Joe Lieberman after failing to persuade more seasoned politicians to take on an 18-year incumbent who had become increasingly aloof from rank and file CT Democrats. The turning point, Lamont said as he did often on the campaign trail, was Lieberman’s late 2005 admonition: “It’s time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge he’ll be commander in chief for three more years. We undermine the president’s credibility at our own peril.” When he heard those words, Ned Lamont knew he could not abide “George Bush’s favorite Democrat” any more. Having held just a town office in Greenwich, the upstart Lamont decided he would have to give the Democratic Party the much needed debate over the U.S. course in Iraq it yearned for. As the campaign moved from winter to spring in 2006, Lamont found that Lieberman’s increasing estrangement from the people who put him in the Senate back in 1988 was real and growing.

Appearing at ease and reflective during his CCSU appearance, Lamont said his overtures about a Lieberman challenge were dismissed out of hand by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Lamont’s assertions that Lieberman was undermining other Democrats and walking lockstep with the GOP fell on deaf ears within the party hierarchy at the state and national level.

The Greenwich Democrat, who is a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government this semester with former Cong. Nancy Johnson (R-New Britain), credited the internet bloggers for fueling what became a grassroots movement that led to his improbable victory in the August 8th Democratic Primary.

Lamont’s primary win, many have since contended, gave Democrats a spine and the gumption to forcefully take on the Bush administration over Iraq. It certainly spawned an unprecedented upsurge in voter registrations in favor of the Democrats. Arguably, the Lamont general election campaign gave Joe Courtney his razor-thin win in the 2nd Congressional District and helped propel Chris Murphy’s overwhelming win in the 5th Congressional District. With Lieberman as the Democratic nominee the Democratic message and the important contrasts to be made between Democrats and Republicans would have been blurred considerably.

In the general election Lamont conceded he may have been hurt by Lieberman’s emphasis on “experience”, and the incumbent’s hammering home the message of “bringing home the bacon.” Lamont said his campaign sought to counter Lieberman with his own experiences in building a business and challenging the go-along and get-along atmosphere of Washington, which was not being particularly responsive to the state’s problems in transportation, job dislocation and health coverage.

The decisive factor in the General Election, Lamont reminded an appreciative audience at CCSU, was the failure of the Republican nominee, Alan Schlesinger, to break over single digits as a percentage of the final vote. From July onward last year the Republican Party abandoned its nominee to line up behind “George Bush’s favorite Democrat”, a development that gave Lieberman the barely 50% he needed to win another term.

Last November a New Britain Democrat commentary assessed the impact of Lamont’s candidacy immediately after the votes were counted:

“Ned Lamont lost the electoral battle last Tuesday but his upstart candidacy and winning of the Democratic nomination helped start a movement within the Democratic Party that may win the peace in Iraq sooner rather than later and helped define the 2006 election in favor of Democrats. The ouster of Donald Rumsfeld last Wednesday was a sign that policy change is coming fast. The entry of grown ups (the Baker/Hamilton Iraq study group) into the Oval office are the beginning of the end of the Cheney/Lieberman policy of neoconservatism and intransigence. In Connecticut, Lamont, calling out Lieberman on his many accommodations with the GOP Administration, has inspired thousands of people to become involved, including newcomers to the New Britain Democratic Town Committee, who will stay involved for future elections.”

Ned Lamont, speaking as if he yearned to be on the stump campaigning again, ended his 30-minute talk by challenging his mostly young audience to take on conventional wisdom themselves. He let it be known that there will be no “woulda, coulda or shoulda” for him when he looks back on 2006. By choosing to challenge an incumbent U.S. Senator who thought he could ignore his base, Lamont used his own considerable resources to lead a grassroots movement that contributed to a change of power in Congress and inspired thousands of people to become involved in the political process. And his talk at the CCSU campus showed that he’s not done rocking the boat nor being a prominent voice in the Democratic Party.