Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan has disavowed an Anne Arundel County Council candidate who belongs to a Southern secessionist organization.
After a challenge from Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown's gubernatorial campaign, Hogan denounced Michael Anthony Peroutka, the Republican nominee for a council district that includes Severna Park, Broadneck and Arnold.
"Larry absolutely disavows him. Those views have never been a part of the Republican Party and they never will," said Hogan campaign spokesman Adam Dubitsky.
Peroutka belongs to the League of the South, a group with the stated goal of Southern independence. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the League of the South as a hate group and Peroutka as an "extremist" candidate.
Peroutka, who says the law center's criticism is misguided, won the Republican primary with a 38-vote margin. He has denied that he is anti-government or racist.
"In both private and public policy, we must remember that God created only one race — the human race," the campaign said in statement Friday. "Therefore, all elevation or denigration of individuals or groups based on skin color is immoral and shameful because it violates the Law of Nature and Nature's God."
Spokesman John Lofton, said Peroutka wants to focus on issues important to voters, such as high taxes. Peroutka's membership in the League of the South has "nothing to do with the people of District 5," Lofton said.
Other Republicans are pressuring Peroutka to resign from the League of the South.
Del. Steve Schuh, the Republican nominee for Anne Arundel County executive, said he met Thursday with Peroutka and encouraged him to break ties with the League of the South.
"He assured me that he is not a racist and that he believes in equality of all members of the human family," Schuh said. "He has also assured me that he does not believe in secession."
Schuh said Peroutka has not asked him for support or an endorsement.
"If he resigns from the League of the South and confirms the assurances that he has given me that he is not racist and he is not secessionist, then it is open for discussion," Schuh said.
On Friday, Maryland Republican Party Executive Director Joe Cluster made a similar request of Peroutka.
"I told him that the Republican Party would like him to not be associated with the League of the South," Cluster said.
On its website, the League of the South called Peroutka's primary win "a political victory for us in Maryland!" The League called Peroutka "our Southern Nationalist candidate" and posted an email from Peroutka seeking prayers and financial support for his campaign from members.
Peroutka, an attorney in Pasadena, co-founded the Institute on the Constitution, which teaches a God-centered "American view" of government. He also helps run a family foundation that supports a number of conservative causes, including the Creation Museum in Kentucky. The foundation donated a complete dinosaur fossil that went on display at the museum in May to advance the belief that dinosaurs were killed off in a great flood a few thousand years ago.
Peroutka is a former member of the Constitution Party and ran for president with that party in 2004.
The attention on Peroutka is welcomed by his Democratic opponent, Patrick Armstrong.
"I'm glad people are starting to take notice," said Armstrong, a retail manager from Arnold. "I've certainly been out there telling people who I am and letting people know about my opponent. I knew the more time that goes on, the more people would find out his views."
Armstrong said he's been talking about supporting school upgrades and helping the county's police and fire departments.
"My opponent has been completely wrapped up in these organizations and people who have completely different views," he said.
Anne Arundel Democrats, led by county executive candidate George F. Johnson IV, held a news conference on Friday morning to draw attention to Peroutka.
Johnson called on local Republicans, including his opponent Schuh, to denounce Peroutka's candidacy.
"We have to stand up and defend and speak for the people of Anne Arundel County," Johnson said in an interview. "Everyone that I talk to just absolutely is taken aback by everything that Mr. Peroutka stands for."