Patrick And The Constitutionalist
The race for an Anne Arundel County Council seat, which usually centers on taxes, schools and pot holes, has turned into a referendum on southern secession, civil rights and religion.
Michael Anthony Peroutka, who won the Republican primary in the fifth council district by 38 votes, says he wants to bring what he calls “the American view” of government back to the county.
The retired debt collection lawyer says that’s the belief that “there is a God, our rights come from him and the purpose of civil government is to protect those God given rights.”
That view and other statements posted on YouTube have earned Peroutka sharp criticism within his own party.
In one recent video, Peroutka compared civil rights laws to defying the law of gravity while discussing the aftermath of the shooting of an unarmed black man by police in Ferguson, Mo.
“When I see politicians, agenda-driven activists and the talking heads seeking to impose their own agendas on the sad city of Ferguson under the phony rubric of ‘civil rights’, I see people trying to walk on the walls,” he said.
Such statements and his membership in the League of the South, which advocates secession by the states of the old Confederacy, have cost him the support of the two top Republicans on the Anne Arundel ballot.
“Some of his affiliations are inappropriate and have led me to conclude that I just cannot support him in the campaign,” says Del. Steve Schuh, the Republican candidate for County Executive.
Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Larry Hogan “absolutely disavows” Peroutka, says Hogan spokesman Adam Dubitsky. He adds Peroutka’s views “have never been a part of the Republican Party and they never will."
Peroutka, a former presidential candidate for the Constitution Party, says Schuh and Hogan were influenced by the Southern Poverty Law Center which has labeled the League of the South, a hate group.
“Mr. Hogan doesn’t know me,” he says. “He hasn’t spoken to me. He didn’t know what these charges were about. It was kind of a knee jerk reaction, but that’s okay.”
He says that if he wins in November he will stand up for the principles of the U.S. Constitution, the state constitution and the county charter.
Can a candidate whose own party leaders have shunned him win?
Dan Nataf, director of Anne Arundel Community College’s Center for the Study of Local Issues, says it’s possible because the district, which covers the Broadneck Peninsula from Severna Park to the Bay Bridge, leans Republican. .
“Low information Republican voters who aren’t going to spend too much time thinking about who he is and how he ended up winning the primary might just go down the ballot and vote for R’s and that’s all there is too it,” Nataf says.
Hoping to break the streak
Patrick Armstrong, a retail manager who grew up on the peninsula, says he hopes to be the first Democrat to represent the district in more than a generation t by concentrating on local issues.
Armstrong says he wants to make sure that the county’s emergency services and school system are fully funded. He also wants to find a way to reduce a $1.5 billion back log in school construction projects.
“I believe that we should be fully funding our public schools,” Armstrong says, “I think that it’s the pride of our county actually is the school system that we have in place.”
That view is opposite of Peroutka who told The Annapolis Capital free public education was a Communist plank Karl Marx advocated.
And it makes Armstrong optimistic about his chances, even in this conservative district.
He says he’s going door to door, to community events and club events, “meeting folks and telling them what I want to do for the county and I’m getting a very positive response.”
But Nataf says it depends on turn-out.
“It’s like every Democrat you can get out there, boom, that’s a vote for you,” he says. “Whereas you can’t be sure on the Republican side the same because of this special quality that Peroutka brings to this race.”