With the candidate looking on, Maryland Democrats rallied under a statue of Thurgood Marshall Tuesday to denounce Michael Peroutka, a Republican nominee for the Anne Arundel County Council with ties to a southern secessionist group.
Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) joined other elected officials to assert that Peroutka’s views have no place in Maryland politics.
“This is really pretty appalling,” said Edwards, the first African American woman elected to Congress from Maryland. “His views, his ideas simply are not acceptable in a modern world.”
Peroutka, who won the June primary for the council’s District 5 seat by 38 votes, was until recently a member of the League of the South, an Alabama-based group. It is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “neo-Confederate” extremist organization that favors establishment of a Christian theocratic state and political domination of blacks and other minorities.
In the “core beliefs” section of its Web site, the league says:
“To be truly free and self-governing, the South must throw off the yoke of imperial oppression. Therefore, The League of the South advocates the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern States from this forced union and the formation of a Southern republic.”
Peroutka was captured on video at the league’s annual conference in 2012 asking the crowd to “stand for the national anthem” and leading it in a rendition of “Dixie.”
Peroutka, 62, a Pasadena attorney, is also co-founder of the Institute on the Constitution. In that role he has written and spoken in opposition to transgender rights, abortion, evolution and public education, which he called “the 10th plank in the Communist Manifesto.”
Busch called on Anne Arundel Republicans and Democrats to rally against Peroutka’s candidacy.
“It’s hard to believe that in 2014, the 200th anniversary of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ . . . that somebody would want to replace that with ‘Dixie’ as the national anthem,” Busch said.
Peroutka faces Democrat Patrick Armstrong in the race for District 5, which takes in Severna Park, Arnold and the Broadneck Peninsula.
Standing at the edge of a small crowd listening to the speakers, Peroutka said he attended the rally out of curiosity and because he heard what he called “the call of the trumpet.”
He said the event was a measure of the Democrats’ anxiety over the race.
“It strikes me that they are desperately trying to energize their base,” he said.
Peroutka, who sat on the board of the League of the South, deflected questions about the group and referred any inquiries to the group’s Web site.
“Talking about the League of the South is meant to be a distraction,” he said. He did add, however, that he believed secession “is constitutional and legal.”
Peroutka said many of his statements have been yanked out of context. He explained that he is “not opposed to public education per se” but that it needs to be reorganized “for maximum parental control,” including over matters of curriculum. He is opposed to the new Common Core standards.
He said if elected to the seven-member council his first priority would be to repeal the so-called rain tax, a stormwater runoff fee passed by the council in 2012.