Arundel council candidate Peroutka says he won't cut ties with secessionist group

Michael Peroutka, who is a republican candidate for Anne Arundel County Council district 5, holds a press conference.

Anne Arundel County Council candidate Michael Peroutka refused Wednesday to disavow an organization that encourages secession of the South, and denounced political and community leaders who have questioned his ties to the group.

The Republican candidate for an Arundel district including Severna Park, Broadneck and Arnold has seen his views called into question regarding his membership in the League of the South, formed in 1994 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., to "organize Southern people so that they might effectively pursue independence and self-government," according to the group's website.


The organization has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Last week, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown's campaign called on Republican nominee Larry Hogan to "disassociate" himself from Peroutka, and Hogan spokesman Adam Dubitsky responded that Hogan "absolutely disavows" Peroutka.


Speaking at a news conference Wednesday in Glen Burnie, Peroutka said those who are targeting him are injecting race in the campaign rather than focusing on issues. He criticized Hogan specifically, saying he "never took the time to even ask me if I was a racist or reach out to have a dialogue with me."

Officials for the Hogan campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Peroutka also criticized The Baltimore Sun, which he said attempted to "smear me as a racist based on the 'hate group' designation that the SPLC gave the League of the South." He said the law center unfairly labels groups when it "simply doesn't like their politics."

"Not only am I not a racist, but I am anti-racist," Peroutka said. "I have spoken publicly against racism. I have gone out of my way to repudiate racism, and if there are any racists in the League of the South, I repudiate and will pray for them."

Peroutka also addressed a video circulated on several online sites that show him speaking before the 2012 League of the South national convention. In the video, Peroutka asks the audience to "stand for the national anthem," then leads the group in singing, "Dixie."

Asked by reporters if his actions in the videos were an error, Peroutka said, "No I don't think it was a mistake."

Peroutka said he would not disavow the League even if it hampers his appeal to Republican voters who side with him on other matters. "That would not be the way I would do it, because that is playing into the cynical, political charade, and it doesn't really work."

"What I'm more concerned about in the Anne Arundel County District 5 race is we actually have a secession going on: People are leaving," he said. "I'm asking people to place trust in me so that I can work within that government to prevent the individual secession that's occurring now."