State lawmaker gets TRO against Republican challenger

Published: Aug. 9, 2016 at 11:17 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 10, 2016 at 10:13 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A state judge has issued a temporary restraining order against a Republican House candidate, requiring him to stay away from state Rep. Della Au Belatti.

Lawrence Fenton is challenging Belatti for her seat, and in recent days, has allegedly yelled at her and called her a derogatory name.

On Thursday, Fenton left a voicemail at Belatti's office urging her to step down.

"If this is Belatti's office, you need to resign, you understand me. I don't have to tell you again, resign b*****."

Belatti's attorney, Eric Seitz, said Fenton made similar statements on social media and in person.

"A week or so ago, Mr. Fenton drove by where Della was holding a sign and yelled at her and made a statement that we consider to be somewhat of a threat," Seitz added.

Seitz said Fenton first approached Belatti's office several years ago to get help him register a firearm in Hawaii. But her office told him he was barred from owning guns here because another state had blocked him.

On Monday night, police served Fenton with the TRO. Sources said they searched his apartment for weapons but found none.

The TRO, which remains in effect for 15 days, bans Fenton from contacting Belatti or visiting her at her workplace or her home.

On his candidate website, Fenton describes himself as a pro-life, pro-organic farming and pro-gun.

Fenton told Hawaii News Now on Wednesday morning that he is didn't say anything threatening and is "rightful" in how he addressed her in that he's exercising his right to free speech. He also added he doesn't like her politics because she promotes gay marriage and gun control.

On Twitter, he wrote: "Someone should tell our current state legislator that I have a right to free speech, guaranteed by the 1st Amendment."

Republicans and Democrats alike are denouncing Fenton's behavior.

"We got to come out against things like that, make sure we run good clean campaigns and talk about issues, because that's what the public wants," said state Sen. Sam Slom, the lone Republican in the state Senate.

Slom and Seitz say they are worried by the recent rise of angry rhetoric in the political arena -- from both the right and the left.

"We are particularly concerned that this guy is a prototype of the angry person who seems to have been liberated in this era of the Donald Trump campaign to go other there and make threats ... and act like a bully," Seitz said.

A hearing on the TRO is scheduled for Tuesday.

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