Republican AG candidate argues abortion is always murder: report

Despite his low standing in a recent public opinion survey, Michael Peroutka, the Republican nominee for attorney general, signaled on Friday that he does not intend to modify his views in order to boost his chances of winning in November.

During an appearance on WAMU Radio (88.5 FM), Peroutka stuck to the hardline views that earned him the Constitution Party’s presidential nomination in 2004. He also pledged to take legal action against Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and local health officers for actions they took to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Although he is running to be the state’s top lawyer, the Anne Arundel Republican, who served for four years on the county council, again pledged to prioritize what he called “God-given, constitutionally-protected rights” over state and federal laws.

During the wide-ranging interview:

  • Peroutka declared that all abortion is murder. “I believe abortion to be against the law of God,” he said. “And I believe it to be violative of the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence.” Asked by host Kojo Nnamdi whether he would defend Maryland’s existing laws, which protect abortion access, Peroutka replied: “You call it a law, but in fact, if something is repugnant to the Constitution, then it’s not a law.” He suggested that no law can recognize exceptions due to rape or incest without violating the Constitution. “Abortion would be treated like murder, which it is. There’s no exception to the intentional termination of innocent life.”
  • Peroutka offered a similar stance on same-sex marriage, which was approved by statewide referendum and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. “You’re calling it legal. On what basis do you call it legal?” He then added: “The question is whether the court is above the Constitution…”
  • Asked whether he still believes his prior claim that public schools are “a plan in the Communist Manifesto,” Peroutka said a “constitutional and moral” approach to education would be to have parents “set the agenda and the curriculum for the children, not the state or the federal government.” He called for the “dis-establishment” of the existing system.
    “All education, to one degree or another, is indoctrination,” he said. “The washing of children’s brains — I’m not necessarily saying brainwashing is bad, because every education system brainwashes in some sense — but I believe that those decisions need to be made by local people.”

Like the Republican nominee for governor, Del. Dan Cox (Frederick), Peroutka is a staunch opponent of the restrictions on commerce and social interaction that were imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19. Both men also fought mask and vaccine mandates the state imposed.

If elected, Peroutka said on the radio, he would make sure the people responsible for those policies are “brought to justice.” Asked by Maryland Matters Friday if he was referring to Hogan and local health officers, Peroutka said yes. “The violations of constitutionally protected rights of assembly, worship, speech, and privacy are deserving of investigation and prosecution,” he wrote in response.

Hogan, who won broad praise for his handling of the pandemic, has slammed Peroutka for spreading “disgusting lies” about the Sept. 11 attacks. The popular, term-limited governor has not endorsed Cox or Peroutka. Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Peroutka also applauded Cox for seeking to block the counting of mail-in ballots as they come in. Cox sought a court order to delay the counting of mail ballots until after Election Day, citing state law. While the Court of Special Appeals has denied Cox’s request seeking a stay to prevent early ballot-counting, the court will hear oral arguments on Cox’s motion next Friday.

Peroutka said that when courts get involved in election matters, they are usurping power that the state constitution gives to the General Assembly. “It would kind of lead to anarchy,” he said. “It’s really the legislative branch’s job to set those rules, and they shouldn’t be overturned by a judge in my view.”

He skipped lightly over his decision to resign from the League of the South, an organization that advocates for a white-dominated, independent South, referring listeners to his website, where he said he laid out his decision to resign from the group.

When asked if he accepts President Biden’s victory in 2020, Peroutka said: “I don’t know.” He claimed that there is a “body of argument” suggesting that “there was serious anomalies and problems and corruption with the election” and another “body of argument” rejecting those claims. He said he would accept the results of November’s election if they “appear to be lawful and legal.”

Peroutka is running against U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown (D). The congressman is scheduled to appear on WAMU on Oct. 14. Peroutka and Brown are scheduled to have back-to-back conversations with representatives of the Maryland League of Women Voters that will be available online on Oct. 12. Maryland Matters is a co-sponsor of that event.

The Maryland Democratic Party issued a statement on Friday shortly after Peroutka’s comments. “There’s no place for his rhetoric here in Maryland,” the statement said. “He’s racist, he’s sexist, and he’s dangerous.”

GOP governor’s attacks on GOP nominee are ‘devastating’: Republican lawmaker

On paper, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Dan Cox has one main opponent this fall — Democrat Wes Moore, the best-selling author and former nonprofit CEO.

Increasingly, however, the Frederick County lawmaker is being forced to beat back attacks from a second high-profile foe — the state’s popular governor, Republican Larry Hogan.

Hogan has repeatedly called the Trump-endorsed Cox a “QAnon whack job” and a “nut job.” He has said he will not be voting for him or supporting him in any way. And he declared that he wouldn’t let the lawmaker set foot in the governor’s office.

This week, Hogan went further, questioning the GOP standard-bearer’s sanity.

“He’s not, in my opinion, mentally stable,” Hogan told an Eastern Shore radio station, WGMD, this week. “Half of Republicans don’t support the guy because he’s a nut.”

The governor’s comments come at a crucial time for Cox.

As he pivots from the primary election to the general, he is trying to make the best possible first impression on Democrats and independents who may not have tracked the GOP primary. He also needs to court the voters who supported his main primary rival, former state commerce secretary Kelly Schulz.

Cox is also trying to professionalize the ad hoc team that helped him capture the nomination. In recent days, he opened a new campaign headquarters and hired a campaign manager and press secretary.

Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-Baltimore County), a Cox supporter, conceded that Hogan’s constant attacks are likely to make the GOP nominee’s uphill fight even more difficult.

“To me, it’s devastating, especially for your party,” said Salling. “You have somebody that you would think would be your supporter and it’s not.”

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R), an outspoken Cox critic and Schulz supporter like Hogan, also predicted that the governor’s comments will hurt the GOP candidate. “You have a governor with 70% approval rating and if he’s saying that he doesn’t care for this other candidate, it’s going to have some impact,” he said.

Rutherford distanced himself from Hogan’s description of Cox as being “not mentally stable,” calling it “not terminology I would use.”

“The people who support Dan Cox, they support him for the positions that he takes,” Rutherford added.

In an email, Cox declined to characterize Hogan’s crack about his mental state. He said the choice for voters this fall center around the candidates on the ballot, not the current governor.

“On the ballot for November’s Governor race are Dan Cox and Wes Moore,” Cox wrote. “Wes Moore has made it clear that if elected he would continue governmental discrimination and overreach including more mandates, dictating gender indoctrination in our schools, forced masking, experimental vaccine passports to attend events and even to eat out, and more lockdowns. But the people of Maryland and I, as your governor, will return power to the people, end mandates, keep businesses and schools open and safe, and restore freedom to the Free State.”

Republicans who run statewide for most offices in Maryland — U.S. Senate, comptroller, attorney general — often fail by wide margins, thanks largely to the lopsided voter registration advantage that Democrats enjoy. GOP candidates for governor have won three of the last five governors races by appealing to a broad spectrum of the electorate.

Hogan’s comments about Cox imperil his ability to build that coalition. They could also hurt fundraising.

Goucher College political science professor Mileah Kromer said Hogan is “popular where it matters for winning general elections, popular among moderate-to-conservative Democrats and consistently popular among independents.”

Kromer said Hogan’s continual (and arguably unprecedented) takedowns of Cox only reinforce her core question about his candidacy — whether Cox has a mathematical path to victory. “You have a message from a very popular Republican governor basically saying ‘This guy’s not me,’” she said. “’There is a reason (voters) voted for me, but this guy’s not me.’”

In addition to making sharp-elbowed comments about Cox on the radio, Hogan went a step further on Friday, posing for pictures with Moore and wife Dawn during a chance encounter at the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference. The governor’s staff posted a photo of the trio online.

In an interview, Hogan denied trying to actively undermine Cox’s bid for high office. He said his comment about Cox’s mental stability came only after he received a litany of Cox-related questions.

“It doesn’t matter to me what happens to Dan Cox,” he said. “I was on the radio, talking about all the things that we’re doing, and everything we’ve accomplished for the [Eastern] Shore. And the guy asked me five, six questions about him. And I was just tired of answering the stupid questions.”

Hogan’s comments were picked up by several national media outlets, including The Hill, making it certain that former President Trump, with whom the governor has long sparred, was aware of them.

Democrats welcomed Hogan’s comments about Cox.

“The governor is incredibly popular, not just in Baltimore County but across the state,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski (D). “I hope that his comments have a deep impact.”

“I think it says a lot when a sitting governor criticizes someone of their own party so resoundingly,” he added.

Former Secretary of State John Willis (D), a political science professor at the University of Baltimore, agreed. An early Moore supporter and Dawn Moore’s former boss when the two worked in the Secretary of State’s office, Willis said: “As the nominee of a party, you wouldn’t want the governor of the state making those comments about you in a general public setting.”