GLEN BURNIE, Md. (WJZ) -- A Republican candidate in Anne Arundel County is making national news for his association with a group that wants the south to secede. For the first time, he's speaking out against allegations he's a racist.
Mike Hellgren has more on some new video that's adding to the controversy.
One prominent civil rights activist called Michael Peroutka Maryland's David Duke--the former Ku Klux Klan member who ran for Congress from Louisiana. But Peroutka says he's no racist and he's the victim of a smear campaign.
What he didn't say is whether he believes the south should secede from the Union.
Video shows Michael Peroutka singing Dixie as the national anthem before a group called the League of the South. That association became a major issue after Peroutka won the Republican primary for a seat on the Anne Arundel County Council.
He's a board member of the league, which the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled a hate group, saying it advocates for a white-led, new confederate nation.
At a press conference, flanked by two African-American supporters, Peroutka denied claims he's racist.
"Not only am I not a racist, but I am an anti-racist," Peroutka said. "If there are any racists in the League of the South, I repudiate them and I pray for them."
"His connection to this organization is apparently so strong that he's not willing to give it up, even for his community," said Patrick Armstrong, Democratic opponent. "I disagree with him and I think most voters disagree with him on that."
"He believes the south will rise again," said civil rights activist Carl Snowden. "And obviously, that's the kind of view we don't want to see on our county council."
Republican candidate for Governor Larry Hogan publicly disavowed Peroutka, but the director of Maryland's GOP would not even issue a statement.
Peroutka would not answer whether he believes there should be a new southern nation.
"Secession is a political reality. There are times in history when it has occurred," said Peroutka. "People sometimes say we settled that, that was settled. I would suggest to you no moral issue is really ever settled by the point of a sword or the point of a gun."
Peroutka says if he's elected, he will support the county's charter.
Peroutka and Armstrong face off in the general election in November. Peroutka won the primary by 38 votes.
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