Far-right extremist Michael Peroutka became the Republican Party’s nominee for Maryland state attorney general with a victory in Tuesday’s primary. Peroutka’s victory is a fiery red flag about the increasing extremism of the Republican Party’s base—as is the gubernatorial primary victory of Trumpist Dan Cox. In April, both Peroutka and Cox appeared at a gathering of QAnon conspiracy theorists called “Patriots Arise.”
Peroutka declared in 2014 that the Maryland General Assembly was no longer a legitimate governing body because its support for marriage equality violated God’s law, and that therefore none of the laws it passed were “legally valid and legally enforceable.”
Peroutka was a board member of the Confederacy-celebrating, pro-Southern-secessionist League of the South. At the group’s 2012 national convention, he led the crowd in singing “Dixie,” which he referred to as “the national anthem.” He quit the League in 2014 when he decided to run for the Anne Arundel County Council, claiming unconvincingly that he had been unaware of the group’s racism.
Peroutka founded the Institute on the Constitution, a Christian Reconstructionist organization that favors religious tests for public office and teaches that the government’s role is to enforce God’s law, and that the government has no legitimate authority to “house, feed, clothe, educate, or give health care to…ANYBODY!”
In 2004, Peroutka ran for the presidency as the nominee for the Christian nationalist Constitution Party. As recently as 2013, he was denouncing the Republican Party and “their brand of worthless, Godless unprincipled conservatism.” That year he appeared at a rally organized by right-wing activist Larry Klayman that was intended to force then-President Barack Obama out of office by a massive show of civil disobedience.
Notably, Peroutka’s extremism did not prevent him from being embraced as a member of the influential and secretive Council for National Policy, which brings together leaders from across the right-wing political movement in the United States.
VICE’s Cameron Joseph wrote about the potential for a Peroutka victory in a story published Monday. In a 2017 story for Talking Point Memo, Joseph reported that during Peroutka’s presidential campaign, Peroutka said he was still angry that Maryland hadn’t seceded in the run-up to the Civil War, praised his son for calling the Confederal flag the “American flag,” and praised his daughter for refusing to play the Battle Hymn of the Republic in her school band.
With Trump’s endorsement, Cox handedly beat Gov. Larry Hogan’s hand-picked successor in the GOP primary. Cox organized buses to attend the Jan. 6, 2021, rally at the U.S. Capitol and, during the attack, sent a tweet calling then-Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor.”
Journalist Sarah Posner, who has spent years covering the religious right and its allies, wrote in a Twitter thread this morning, “The projected victories of two far-right GOP candidates in the Maryland primary for governor and attorney general provides a potent opportunity to show how the long game of Christian nationalism intersects with the insurrection and election denialism.”