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BJ Penn’s mom seeks state OHA board seat

Lorraine Shin is returning to politics, but with a slightly different name.

Shin, whose son is famous mixed martial arts fighter BJ Penn, said she will use the name Lorraine Pualani Shin-Penn on the ballot and in campaign material as she seeks the at-large position for the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

The Hilo businesswoman said she is officially keeping her maiden name but is using “Penn” to help with name recognition.

She said she last went by Penn, without a hyphen, about 25 years ago prior to a divorce.

While acknowledging it’s part of a marketing strategy, Shin, who ran for Hawaii County Council in 1994 and 1996, said the name is still part of her identity.

“Most people know me as BJ Penn’s mom or mom Penn,” Shin said.

The words “BJ Penn’s mom” also appear on a campaign bumper sticker.

“My job out there is to get out the vote,” she said.

Shin said BJ Penn and the rest of her family supports the use of the name. Her son will also likely be featured in campaign advertisements, she said.

BJ Penn wasn’t available for comment. In a press release, he said he is his mom’s biggest fan and supporter for her candidacy.

“My mom is the real deal,” the statement said. “Her experience and credentials will truly make a difference.”

Those credentials include about eight years as state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program under the George W. Bush administration.

Shin is also president of the Penn Hawaii Youth Foundation and past president of the Waiakea Center, where Walmart is located.

As of May 2, 16 people pulled papers for the at-large position on the OHA Board of Trustees.

Seven had officially filed, including Shin.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-


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