Michael Anthony Peroutka, a Anne Arundel County Council candidate who gained attention for his membership in a Southern secessionist group, said this week he's no longer a member of the League of the South.
Peroutka, a Millersville Republican, said he left the group prior to Labor Day because he discovered statements members made on the subject of being opposed to interracial marriage were “contrary to my beliefs." He would not elaborate.
Though his League of the South membership drew criticism during the campaign — "Everybody wants to talk about League of the South all the time," he said — the decision to quit the group was not politically motivated, Peroutka said.
“I didn’t do it to bring up any political points,” Peroutka said. “I dont have any problem with the organization.”
Peroutka said he still stands by the groups stances on self-government and conserving southern heritage.
Peroutka's membership in the League, a group that advocates Southern secession, contributed to him being labeled as an "extremist candidate" by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC considers the League of the South a hate group.
Recently a video circulated online showing Peroutka at a League of the South event in 2012 asking the crowd to stand for the national anthem. He proceeded to play "Dixie." During a debate last week, Peroutka said the video had been taken out of context and that he understands the national anthem is "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Some in the Republican Party have distanced themselves from Peroutka, including GOP gubernatorial nominee Larry Hogan. In July, a Hogan spokesman said Hogan "absolutely disavows" Peroutka.
Republican county executive candidate Steve Schuh followed, saying he could not support a candidate that appeared to be part of a group that was racist or that "advocates for the dismemberment of the United States."
Messages for Hogan and Schuh were not immediately returned Friday.
Peroutka's opponent in the District 5 council race, Democrat Patrick Armstrong, said he was not impressed with Peroutka leaving the League of the South.
In a statement, Armstrong, an Arnold resident, said: "This 11th-hour attempt to hide his extreme agenda shows his pattern of election-year conversions of convenience — like his last-minute switch to the Republican Party that he called worthless and Godless less than one year ago."
League of the South founder Michael Hill did not respond to a request for comment.
Mark Potok, a senior fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said his organization still considers Peroutka an extremist candidate. "It's fairly apparent he left the League not because of any ideological disagreements but because he was getting a lot of trouble about his membership," Potok said.
District 5 includes the communities of Severna Park, Arnold and the Broadneck Peninsula.
Staff writer Rema Rahman contributed to this article.