Republican candidate for governor: B.J. Penn

The former MMA champion says he's built teams his whole life. He says his business background prepares him for the role as governor.
Published: Jul. 24, 2022 at 12:12 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 24, 2022 at 12:27 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - B.J. Penn’s decision to run for governor triggered a flurry of interest in the race. Could the former UFC champ actually win the Republican nomination?

As election day nears, the clear answer is ... yes. The latest Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll puts Penn in a close second to former Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona with a significant percentage of undecideds.

Political onlookers note that what Penn lacks in political experience or a policy framework, he makes up for in name recognition and popularity. He’s likable, has charisma, and offers a populist message of change.

Penn’s campaign declined to participate in “The Job Interview,” citing scheduling conflicts.

But he was in the HNN Super Debate, the first statewide platform he agreed to participate in.

[Special Section: The Job Interview]

And on the debate stage, he criticized the state’s COVID response, hammered Hawaii’s “Democratic establishment” and said his campaign offered a new vision for smaller government in the islands.

To help voters learn more about the candidates for Hawaii governor, Hawaii News Now partnered with Honolulu Civil Beat to conduct “The Job Interview” — a series of one-hour interviews with gubernatorial contenders.

Penn and his fellow Republican contenders were also asked about the former MMA pro’s run-ins with law. Former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona said the arrests mattered — but he added that people change.

Click here to head to our Campaign 2022 section for more election coverage.

For his part, Penn asked voters to believe he’s learned and grown in recent years.

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

To watch all of the “The Job Interview” sit-down sessions, click here.

Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.