Former UFC champ B.J. Penn officially enters Hawaii governor’s race but has yet to post campaign goals

B.J. Penn has officially filed papers to run for governor of Hawaii in the upcoming elections. The former two-division UFC champion plans to run…

By: Karim Zidan | 1 year ago
Former UFC champ B.J. Penn officially enters Hawaii governor’s race but has yet to post campaign goals
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

B.J. Penn has officially filed papers to run for governor of Hawaii in the upcoming elections.

The former two-division UFC champion plans to run as a Republican alongside four other GOP candidates on the ballot, including two businesspersons, a retired U.S. army officer, and a councilmember.

The candidates hope to replace incumbent Democratic Governor David Ige, who is term-limited and ineligible to run for a third term in office.

Penn joined the GOP after finding his political fervor during the pandemic. The former fighter spoke out against mask mandates and vaccine restrictions, promising to lift them if elected governor.

However, since most restrictions have been lifted over the course of the past few months, Penn has not updated his gubernatorial goals. His official campaign website does not list any goals, though it invites Hawaiians to “join the fight” and donate to his campaign.

While his campaign does not appear to have any political direction, Penn noted on social media that if he were elected governor, he would bring “Hawaii its first NFL football team and 3 UFC fights a year.”

Penn also appeared to have limited knowledge on policy in Hawaii. During a recent interview on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Penn claimed that Hawaii had the “highest state income tax” but failed to give an exact figure when pressed by Rogan.

“I don’t got the exact number right now but we talk about that often,” Penn said.

Despite being a political novice, Penn remains the most well-known candidate in the GOP primary, which makes him a legitimate candidate to challenge in the gubernatorial race.

“Really, what he’s bringing to the race is his charisma and populist appeal, and I think that will be attractive to a lot of voters who frankly are very frustrated with the establishment Democratic Party here,” HNN political analyst Colin Moore told Hawaii News Now.

“He might not know that our top marginal income tax rate is 11%, but that’s not what people are really looking for him to deliver.”

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About the author
Karim Zidan
Karim Zidan

Karim Zidan is a investigative reporter and feature writer focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. He has written for BloodyElbow since 2014 and has served as an associate editor since 2016. He also writes for The New York Times and The Guardian. Karim has been invited to speak about his work at numerous universities, including Princeton, and was a panelist at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and the Oslo Freedom Forum. He also participated in the United Nations counter-terrorism conference in 2021. His reporting on Ramzan Kadyrov’s involvement in MMA, much of which was done for Bloody Elbow, has led to numerous award nominations, and was the basis of an award-winning HBO Real Sports documentary.

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