A debate ‘scrap’ was promised, but Hawaii’s GOP delivered something more of a ‘love fest’

Many viewers anticipated a political fight between BJ Penn, Duke Aiona and Heidi Tsuneyoshi but it turned out to be quite the opposite.
Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 5:46 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 22, 2022 at 6:08 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On social media posts, UFC Hall of Famer B.J. Penn promised a “scrap” in Thursday’s Republican gubernatorial debate, but the evening turned out quite the opposite.

Instead, the debate showed the GOP candidates’ beef is with the Democratic establishment.

While there were feisty exchanges between the Democratic candidates for governor, some called the Republican debate a “love fest.”

On the debate stage, Republican contender Heidi Tsuneyoshi asked Penn what experience he’d bring to the Governor’s Office.

“As governor, I’m running because the system is broken,” said Penn.

“As a kupuna in the republican party, I feel like I should commend all of you,” former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona.


“I think he lacks experience, there’s no question about that,” he added, referring to Penn.

When it was turn for Aiona to ask another candidate a question, he refused.

“It’s not about taking the high road. Please see my heart on this. I’m so proud of everybody,” Aiona said.

Penn then also refused to ask a question.

“When this goes on and I become governor, I would love to say, ‘Hey uncle, I need some advice, uh Heidi, you’re with me. You are coming with me,” said Penn.

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The candidates were asked about Penn’s misdemeanor arrests for DUI and if it mattered.

“I’ve had my challenges. I’ve learned a lot and I’m ready to share what I’ve learned with the people,” said Penn.

Tsuneyoshi added, “I believe that every voter should do their own due diligence. Read up on the situation. See what their comfort level is on what had happened and vote your conscience.”

The candidates also answered questions on housing, the environment, the Thirty Meter Telescope and what they would do if hospitals became overwhelmed with covid patients. Penn says they can have their treatment at home.

“It’s been two years and they haven’t made any more beds yet. I know they’ve done that. There’s a lot of beds at everybody’s house,” said Penn.

Penn was asked to clarify.

“Everybody has a bed at people’s house,” he said.

“If our hospitals are running out of beds and we haven’t put any more beds in the last two years and it looks like there’s a problem there then we have find beds at people’s houses.”

Former Aloha Freedom Coalition leader Gary Cordery is also running on the GOP ticket. His supporters had been demanding that he be allowed on the debate stage.

“All of our constituents and many people in Hawaii are longing for a candidate who will speak the truth,” said Cordery.

With 10 candidates in the GOP primary, Hawaii News Now chose to feature the top three Republicans and the top three Democrats.

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