A controversial Anne Arundel County Council candidate is making waves in Maryland's gubernatorial race.
Late Thursday night, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown's campaign called on Republican candidate Larry Hogan to "disassociate" from Michael Anthony Peroutka. Hogan's camp quickly responded by disavowing Peroutka, a Republican running for a County Council seat representing Severna Park, Arnold and Broadneck.
Peroutka gained attention for being a member of the League of the South, a group that advocates for southern states to secede from America. The League of the South has been labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The Brown campaign issued a statement Thursday night: "It's surprising that Maryland Republicans would nominate a candidate who's a member of a hate group with such disturbing racial and secessionist positions, but we call on Larry Hogan to do the sensible thing and disassociate himself from Peroutka and his views. These outdated and offensive positions have no place in Maryland."
Hogan's spokesman, Adam Dubitsky, responded: "Larry absolutely disavows him. Those views have never been a part of the Republican Party and they never will."
Peroutka could not be reached for comment Thursday. His campaign spokesman, John Lofton, did not respond to requests for comment. Through Lofton, Peroutka has declined interview requests from The Baltimore Sun since his 38-vote victory in the Republican primary.
The exchange between the Brown and Hogan camps come as there's increasing attention to a local race that would typically have a lower profile.
A local civil rights leader in Anne Arundel County on Thursday called for Republicans from Hogan on down to disavow Peroutka.
The request comes from Carl Snowden in his role as organizer of the Caucus of African-American Leaders, a group that includes representatives from the NAACP, black churches and other organizations in the county.
"The Republican Party has been advocating that they want to attract African-Americans and Latinos to their cause," Snowden said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon. "We believe the candidacy of Mr. Peroutka will have a disastrous effect on this outreach effort."
Snowden said Peroutka's candidacy gives Republicans "a golden opportunity" to show their commitment to diversity.
And on Friday, Peroutka is scheduled to meet with the director of the Maryland Republican Party, who has concerns about the GOP being associated with a candidate who might be painted as racist.
Republican Party Director Joe Cluster said he'll explain to Peroutka that the party is not comfortable with an association with the League of the South. "If he wants to continue to be part of these organizations, we can't do much to help him out," Cluster said.
"I can't tell him, 'You can't run,'" Cluster continued. "I can only say we're not comfortable with some of these organizations. We're not affiliated with them – just him."
All of 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."
The district that Peroutka and Armstrong are running in is generally conservative and has been represented by Republicans since 1990. Armstrong said he has to convince Republicans to look past party labels and choose the candidate who will do the best job advocating for the community.
Armstrong said he's been talking about supporting school upgrades and helping the police and fire departments.
"My opponent has been completely wrapped up in these organizations and people who have completely different views," he said.
Peroutka, a Pasadena attorney, is also co-founder on the Institute on the Constitution, which teaches a God-centered "American view" of government. He helps run a family charity that donates to causes including the Creation Museum in Kentucky, and recently donated a dinosaur fossil to the museum.
He is a former member of the Constitution Party and ran for president with that party in 2004.