A perennial candidate is a political candidate who frequently runs for an elected office but seldom wins. The term generally isn't applied to incumbent politicians who successfully defend their seats repeatedly.
Perennial candidates can vary widely in nature. Some are independents who lack the support of the major political parties in an area or are members of alternative parties (such as "third parties" in the United States). Others may be mainstream candidates who can consistently win a party's nomination, but because their district is gerrymandered so that the party can never win a general election, the candidate likewise never gets elected (thus these types are often paper candidates). Still others may typically run in primary elections for a party's nomination and lose repeatedly. Numerous political candidates, although not all, run with the full knowledge of their inability to win election and instead use their candidacy for satire, to advance non-mainstream political platforms, or to take advantage of benefits afforded political candidates (such as campaign financing and television advertising benefits).
Below is a list of notable perennial candidates.
- José Saúl Wermus a.k.a. Jorge Altamira, leader of the trotskyist Partido Obrero, has run for President five times (1989, 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2011). His best performance was in 2011, with 2.31% of the votes.
- Ben Buckley, a farmer, has (unsuccessfully) contested Gippsland in the House of Representatives on 10 separate occasions. He first contested the seat in 1984, and has contested every election since 2001. An independent on six occasions, Buckley ran as a One Nation candidate in 2004, and has run as a Liberal Democrat in the past three elections (2008, 2010, and 2013). His best result came in 2010, when he polled 5.52% of the vote.
- Bruno Amoussou, leader of the Social Democratic Party, ran for President four times (1991, 1996, 2001 and 2006).
- Lula da Silva also ran for the Presidency in 1989, 1994 and 1998, achieving the second largest number of votes on each occasion. He ultimately won in 2002, and was reelected in 2006.
- Michael Baldasaro of the pro-marijuana Church of the Universe has run on numerous occasions for positions at various levels.
- Douglas Campbell has run as a fringe candidate for federal parliament in the 1960s, the leadership of both the Ontario and federal New Democratic Party in the 1970s and 1980s, and Mayor of North York, Ontario. He ran for Mayor of Toronto in 2000, 2003 and 2006.
- Ross Dowson, leader of the Canadian Trotskyist group the Revolutionary Workers Party (later the League for Socialist Action) ran for Mayor of Toronto nine times in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. His best result was in 1949 when he won 20% of the vote in a two man race. He also ran twice for the Canadian House of Commons.
- Henri-Georges Grenier ran 13 times for the Canadian House of Commons between 1945 and 1980 on the tickets of a variety of political parties, for each of which he was the sole candidate.
- Ben Kerr, a street musician, ran for Mayor of Toronto seven times between 1985 and his death in 2005. He was best known for his country music performances and for advocating the medicinal benefits of drinking a concoction that has cayenne pepper as its main ingredient.
- Patricia Métivier contested 24 Canadian federal, provincial or municipal elections from 1972 to 2001.
- David Popescu has run for federal, provincial and municipal office nine times since 1998 on an extreme anti-abortion and anti-homosexual platform. While campaigning in the 2008 election, he advocated the execution of homosexuals, which precipitated charges under Canada's hate crime laws.
- Naomi Rankin ran for the Communist Party of Canada in 2008, her eighth attempt at becoming an MP. She has also ran six times for the Communist Party of Alberta, also all unsuccessful.
- John "The Engineer" Turmel is in the Guinness World Records for being the candidate who has "most elections contested" and lost: 77 as of September 2012.
- Harry Bradley ran for the Toronto Board of Control 24 times between 1930 and 1964. He also ran for mayor in 1960 and 1962, and for city council in 1969.
- Kevin Clarke is a homeless person who has unsuccessfully contested municipal, provincial and federal office in Toronto numerous times from the 1990s to the present, often as leader of The People's Political Party.
- Horacio Serpa Uribe three-time presidential candidate.
- Noemi Sanin three-time presidential candidate.
- Kostas Kyriacou, otherwise known as "Outopos", has been a candidate for every Presidential and Parliamentary election since 1998 but has never gained more than 1% of the vote.
- Jana Bobošíková is known for a series of unsuccessful candidatures in various elections. She unsuccessfully ran two times for President of Czech Republic (2008 and 2013), Chamber of Deputies (2010, 2013), Senate of Czech Republic (2010, 2011), Mayor of city of Prague (2010) and General Manager of Czech Television (2009).
- Arlette Laguiller, leader of the Workers' Struggle, a French Trotskyist party, has been a candidate six times (1974, 1981, 1988, 1995, 2002 and 2007) in the French Presidential elections.
- Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front party, has been a candidate five times (1974, 1988, 1995, 2002 and 2007) in the French Presidential elections.
- Sheriff Mustapha Dibba, leader of the National Convention Party, ran for President four times (1982, 1987, 1992 and 2001).
- Ousainou Darboe, leader of the United Democratic Party, has run for President four times (1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011).
- Edward Mahama, leader of the People's National Convention, has run for President four times (1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008).
- Hotte Paksha Rangaswamy was a political leader from the Indian state of Karnataka, who had a penchant for contesting elections. He is a Guinness World Records holder for having contested the highest number of elections - he unsuccessfully did so 86 times.
- Kaka Joginder Singh (alias Dharti Pakad meaning "one who clings to the ground", earned after several unsuccessful runs for the President of India.) was a textile owner who contested and lost over 300 elections in India. Although his nomination papers were usually disregarded by the election commission, he reached his high-water mark during the 1992 10th Presidential elections where he earned fourth place in the polling with 1135 votes, eventually losing to Shankar Dayal Sharma
- Vladimir Herczberg, a nuclear physicist. Ran for Mayor of Beersheba and for a Knesset seat twice, and ran for the leadership of the Likud party in its 2012 leadership election. Also ran for the leadership of the Jewish Agency, World Jewish Congress, and the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress.
- Mitsuo Matayoshi (alias Jesus Matayoshi), leader of the World Economic Community Party and self-proclaimed Messiah, has run in at least nine local and national elections since 1997.
- Yoshiro Nakamatsu (alias Dr. NakaMats), inventor and perennial candidate in Tokyo.
- Nicolás Zúñiga y Miranda was a Presidential candidate ten times: 1892, 1896, 1900, 1904, 1910, 1911, 1913, 1917, 1920 and 1924 and also tried to run for a seat in the Congress of Mexico at least twice. The eccentric Zúñiga never got more than a few votes, but always claimed to have been the victim of fraud and considered himself to be the legitimate president.
- Pascual Racuyal unsuccessfully ran for President eleven times (1935, 1941, 1946, 1949, 1953, 1957, 1961, 1965, 1969, 1981 and 1986), although he was disqualified on all but two (1935 and 1969).
- Janusz Korwin-Mikke unsuccessfully ran for President four times (1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010).
- Philippe Boullé has unsuccessfully run for President four times (1993, 2001, 2006 and 2011).
- Wavel Ramkalawan, leader of the Seychelles National Party, has unsuccessfully run for President four times (1998, 2001, 2006 and 2011).
- Ooi Boon Ewe has applied three times (1999, 2005 and 2011) to run for President, all unsuccessfully. He had also tried to contest in both 2006 and 2011 general elections, in which both times he failed to get nominated.
- Zeng Guo Yuan
- Ibrahim Lipumba, leader of the Civic United Front, has run for President four times (1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010).
- Bill Boaks contested general and by-elections for a period of 30 years under various descriptions, most famously "Public Safety Democratic Monarchist White Resident". Boaks's main concern was public safety on the roads and believed that pedestrians should have the right of way at all times. In the Glasgow Hillhead by-election, 1982 he received only 5 votes, one of the lowest recorded in a modern British Parliamentary election. He died in 1986 from injuries sustained in a car accident two years earlier.
- Arthur Hunnable's name never appeared on a ballot paper, but he campaigned and announced that he would stand in almost every by-election from 1907 to 1909, and also in Jarrow at the 1918 general election.
- David Sutch ran in 39 general elections and by-elections under the name Screaming Lord Sutch for the British House of Commons, and one election for the European Parliament, never winning much more than 1,000 votes. He first ran in 1963 on the National Teenage Party ticket for the seat left vacant by the resignation of John Profumo. He founded the infamous Official Monster Raving Loony Party in 1983 and led it until his suicide in 1999.
- Lindi St Clair ran in numerous elections for her "Corrective Party", on some occasions standing as "Miss Whiplash".
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- Al Krulick, a Walt Disney theme park actor, is a Democrat who lost back-to-back races against Bill McCollum for Florida's 8th Congressional seat in 1996 and 1998. Disney would not back him in 1998, preferring his Republican opponent. Krulick ran as a Green Party candidate in 2010 for Florida's State Lieutenant Governor. In 2014, after failing to qualify as a Democratic candidate, he is running as an NPA candidate in Florida's 7th Congressional seat.
- Ted Brown, a California Libertarian, has run for state and federal office 14 times in the last 30 years, never receiving more than 6% of the vote.
- Jeff Boss is a conspiracy theorist who believes that the NSA is responsible for the September 11 attacks. He has run in the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections and plans to run in 2016.
- Pasquale Caggiano, seven time candidate for Mayor of Lynn, Massachusetts. Elected on his final attempt, but died three months into his term. He had previously served as a member of the Lynn City Council and the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Unsuccessful Candidate for the United States House of Representatives in Massachusetts's 7th congressional district in 1956, Lieutenant Governor in 1960 and 1962, Governor of Massachusetts in 1964 and the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1968.
- Guy Carbone, a Massachusetts Democrat turned Republican, has run for Northern District District Attorney in 1978 and 1982, Governor of Massachusetts in 1986, Massachusetts Attorney General in 1990, 1994, and 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996, and the Massachusetts Senate in 1998. He also ran for Governor in 1982 and 1990 before dropping out to pursue another office.
- Doug Cloud, a Washington Republican, has run for a seat in congress from Washington's sixth congressional district five times (in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012). He has also sought a vacancy appointment to the Washington House of Representatives.
- Jacob Coxey best known for his 1894 March on Washington DC, Coxey ran 3 times for US Senate for Ohio, and twice as the People's Party nominee for Governor of Ohio in 1895 and 1897. Coxey also was the Mayor of Massilon, OH from 1931 to 1933 in addition to losing numerous congressional races.
- John H. Cox, a Republican talk radio host, has run for various positions in his home state of Illinois including U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate, and Cook County Recorder of Deeds, the latter in an attempt to eliminate the position; which he saw as unnecessary. Cox most recently unsuccessfully ran for the 2008 Republican nomination for President of the United States.
- Jack Davis, founder of a heating element manufacturing company and protectionism advocate, has unsuccessfully run for the seat representing New York's 26th congressional district four times in five elections between 2004 and 2011, three times as a Democrat and the fourth as an independent. He has not ruled out future runs for office.
- Eugene V. Debs was a presidential candidate for the Social Democratic Party in 1900 and thereafter for the Socialist Party in four more elections: 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920. In the 1920 election, while in federal prison for violating the Espionage Act of 1917 with a speech opposing the draft, he received 913,664 votes, the most ever for a Socialist Party presidential candidate.
- Earl Dodge, a long-time activist in the temperance movement, was the Prohibition Party's presidential candidate in six consecutive elections, from 1984 to 2004. He was also that party's vice-presidential candidate in 1976 and 1980. He ran for Governor of Colorado on five occasions (1970, 1974, 1982, 1986, and 1994) as well. He also ran for Senator of Kansas in 1966.
- Matt Doheny, a Wall Street investment manager, ran for the Northern New York seat in Congress (New York's 21st congressional district as of 2014) four consecutive times between 2009 and 2014; he lost in the party caucuses in 2009, in the general election in 2010 and 2012, and in a primary election in 2014.
- Jack Fellure ran for the Republican Party nomination in every presidential election from 1988 to 2012. In the 2012 campaign, he withdrew from the Republican nomination race, and become the presidential nominee of the Prohibition Party.
- Edward Forchion, a pro-marijuana activist also known as NJWEEDMAN, has repeatedly run for statewide and local offices in New Jersey.
- Gatewood Galbraith, a political gadfly known for his outspoken advocacy of civil liberties and legalization of marijuana, ran unsuccessfully for state and federal offices in his home state of Kentucky no fewer than nine times. He ran twice for the U.S. House, once for state agriculture commissioner, once for state attorney general, and five times for governor. His final run for governor ended less than two months before his death in January 2012.
- Althea Garrison, has run unsuccessfully in multiple elections for the Massachusetts General Court, Boston City Council, and Mayor of Boston as a Republican, Democrat, and independent. Served one term in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1993 to 1995. She was the first transgender or transsexual person to be elected to a state legislature in the United States.
- Kevin Gaughan, an advocate for municipal downsizing, has run unsuccessfully for office six times, in addition to his mixed record at spearheading referendums to eliminate municipalitiets and reduce the number of elected officials.
- Goodspaceguy, who legally changed his name from Michael George Nelson, has run for local, state, and federal office in Washington state more than a dozen times.
- John Hagelin, a physicist and co-founder of the Natural Law Party, was that party's only presidential candidate in its history. Hagelin ran three times (in 1992, 1996 and 2000) before the party folded in 2004.
- Robert Hagopian, ran unsuccessfully for public office in Hamilton, Massachusetts about twenty times. Previously served as Treasurer of Watertown, Massachusetts from 1955 to 1967.
- Gus Hall, leader of the Communist Party USA, ran for Governor of Ohio in 1940 and for the presidency four times, from 1972 to 1984 inclusive.
- James Harris has been the Socialist Workers Party's nominee for President five consecutive times since the 1996 election in at least a handful of states; three times he has run as an active candidate through the entire country, and the other two times he appeared as a dummy candidate substituting for the constitutionally ineligible candidacy of foreign-born Róger Calero, who was the party's official nominee, in states that would not allow Calero on the ballot.
- Howie Hawkins, co-founder of the Green Party, has run unsuccessfully for 19 political offices and is in the process of running a 20th campaign.
- Abraham "Honest Abe" Hirschfeld, a New York City businessman, ran unsuccessful campaigns for the U.S. Senate in 1974 (defeated in Democratic primary) and 2004 (on a minor party line), for the New York City Council, for Manhattan Borough President in 1997, for Lieutenant Governor of New York, for New York State Comptroller in 1998, and for Mayor of Miami Beach, Florida.
- John Jay Hooker, a Tennessee Democrat, ran for several Tennessee offices, in later years mainly to gain standing for lawsuits against more serious candidates on the grounds of campaign finance violations.
- Stan Lippman, an attorney and physicist, has unsuccessfully run for office more than eight times in the state of Washington.
- Keith Russell Judd, who is currently serving a 17-year federal prison sentence, has run for office at least five times, including one-state runs in Democratic Presidential primaries in 1996, 2008 in 2012. Judd's 2012 run, in the West Virginia Democratic presidential primary, was a surprisingly strong showing, as he (being one of only two people on the ballot, the other being incumbent President Barack Obama) finished with over 40% of the vote, winning several counties primarily as a protest vote.
- Alan Keyes, has run for U.S. President in 1996, 2000, and 2008. He ran for the U.S. Senate from Maryland in 1988, 1992, and, in 2004, against Barack Obama in Illinois.
- Luther Devine Knox, a Louisiana Democrat, sought several Louisiana offices between 1963 and 1999, never winning, and only coming close once (his first election, losing to Lantz Womack by 18 votes). By the 1980s, Knox had legally changed his name to "none of the above" because of his desire for voters to have that option on their ballots.
- Lyndon LaRouche, a fringe political figure, ran for president of the United States in eight elections, beginning in 1976. He ran once as a U.S. Labor Party candidate and seven times as a Democrat. In 1992, he campaigned while in federal prison. Many of his followers have also run for office repeatedly, including Sheila Jones and Elliott Greenspan, both of whom made eight campaigns for a variety of offices.
- Andy Martin (also known as Anthony Martin-Trigona), a journalist and self-described consumer advocate has run for several local, state and federal offices dating back to at least 1977, including two runs for president and six runs for Senate. He has run as a Democrat, a Republican and as an independent.
- Basil Marceaux, during the 2010 election cycle filed as a candidate for the Republican nominations for governor in the Tennessee gubernatorial election and U.S. House of Representatives in Tennessee's 3rd congressional district. Before his 2010 candidacies for Governor and the U.S. House, Marceaux had previously run as a candidate for the Tennessee State Senate three times, the United States Senate once and the Governor of Tennessee in three separate elections.
- Eugene McCarthy, Senator from Minnesota, though successful in multiple campaigns for the U.S. Congress, was a perennial presidential candidate. He ran for the Presidency five times, in 1968, 1972, 1976, 1988, and 1992. He tried (unsuccessfully) for the Democratic Presidential nomination in three of those years (1968, 1972, and 1992), and ran as an Independent in the other two years.
- Jimmy McMillan, founder of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party, has run for Mayor of New York City in 1993, 2005, 2009 and 2013, US Senate in 2000, Governor of New York in 1994, 2006, and 2010, and President of the United States in 2012.
- Marcus Morton, candidate for Governor of Massachusetts every year from 1828 to 1843. He won twice (1839 and 1842). His 1839 victory came in the closest governor's race in United States history.
- Mike the Mover, who was born Michael Shanks but legally changed his name, has run for public office in Washington state more than 17 times to help promote his furniture moving business.
- Mark Neumann, a former Republican congressman from Wisconsin. He ran for Congress unsuccessfully several times in the 1990s, finally winning election in 1994. Since then, he has gone on to lose a Senate general election in 1998, a gubernatorial primary election in 2010, and a Senate primary election in 2012.
- Jim Oberweis, Illinois dairy magnate, unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2002 and 2004, Illinois Governor in 2006, and U.S. Representative in the Illinois 14th district in 2008 in the special election to replace retiring Dennis Hastert as well as in the November election. In his fifth attempt at elected office, he succeeded at winning a seat in the Illinois Senate in November 2012. He is currently the 2014 Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate.
- Pat Paulsen, a comedian best known for his appearances on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, first ran for President in 1968 as both a joke and a protest. He ran again in 1972 and in succeeding elections until 1996, one year prior to his death.
- Richard Pope, a Bellevue, Washington attorney, has run for local and state office in Washington state a dozen times, though has yet to be elected.
- John Raese, a Republican, unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate from West Virginia in 1984, 2006, 2010, and 2012. Raese also ran for Governor in 1988, but lost the Republican primary.
- Merrill K. Riddick, ran for Montana governor in 1968, U.S. Congress in 1972, and was a presidential candidate in 1976, 1980, and 1984, but never won an election.
- Jack E. Robinson, a Republican turned Independent who has unsuccessfully run in Massachusetts for United States Senate in 2000 and 2010, Secretary of the Commonwealth in 2002, United States Congress in 2006.
- Jim Rogers, an Oklahoma Democrat notorious for his secrecy and almost complete lack of campaigning, has run for the state's two U.S. senate seats every election since 2002; he also ran in the 2012 Oklahoma Democratic presidential primary, finishing in third place with 15% of the vote.
- Mary Ruwart, a member of the Libertarian Party, Ruwart campaigned unsuccessfully for the party's presidential nomination in 1984 and 2008 and for the vice-presidential nomination in 1992. Ruwart was the Libertarian Party of Texas's nominee for U.S. Senate in 2000 losing with only 1.16% of the popular vote.
- Joe Schriner, a journalist, ran for President as an independent in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012.
- Al Sharpton ran for the United States Senate from New York in 1988, 1992, and 1994. He also ran for Mayor of New York City in 1997 and for the Democratic nomination for President in 2004.
- Harold Stassen is perhaps the most famous and distinguished perennial presidential candidate in U.S. history, along with Ralph Nader. A one-time Governor of Minnesota and former President of the University of Pennsylvania, he ran for the Republican nomination for President twelve times between 1944 and 2000. While Stassen was considered a serious candidate in 1944, 1948 and 1952, his persistent attempts were increasingly met with derision and then amusement as the decades progressed. He also ran in 10 other races for lower offices.
- Vermin Supreme, former candidate for Mayor of Baltimore, Mayor of Detroit, Mayor of Mercury, Nevada, campaigned in the Democratic Party primary in 2004, and in New Hampshire Republican Party primary in 2008 and 2012
- Glen H. Taylor, a Democrat known as "The Singing Cowboy," ran for Congress in Idaho seven times (1938, 1940, 1942, 1944, 1950, 1954 and 1956). His 1944 Senate run was his only successful campaign. Taylor was also the Progressive Party vice presidential nominee in 1948.
- Randall Terry is an anti-abortion activist who has run for numerous positions in the national and state governments, including President. He is notorious for getting glitterbombed by candidate Vermin Supreme at the 2012 lesser known Democratic Presidential debate.
- Norman Thomas was the Socialist Party's candidate for President of the United States on six occasions from 1928 to 1948 inclusive. Unlike most other perennial candidates, Thomas influenced American politics to a considerable degree with many of his policies being appropriated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.
- Jeffrey C. Thomas a physician and former Janesville, Wisconsin city council member, lost 4 consecutive races for Wisconsin's 1st Congressional seat between 2000 and 2008, losing all four times to the same candidate, incumbent Paul Ryan.
- Don Wright, as president of the Alaska Federation of Natives during the early 1970s, played a major role in the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. However, Wright is far better known as a perennial candidate, having run for statewide office in Alaska 15 times since 1968. Wright has run for governor of Alaska 11 consecutive times since 1974. Wright ran 7 of those campaigns under a major party, but lost in the primary election each time. The remaining four times (1978, 2002, 2006 and 2010), he was the nominee of the Alaskan Independence Party.
- Henning A. Blomen tried unsuccessfully to become Governor of Massachusetts 14 times.
- Godfrey Miyanda, leader of the Heritage Party, has run for President four times (2001, 2006, 2008 and 2011).
- "Popescu charged for comments on gays". Sudbury Star, March 6, 2009.
- POLL-POURRI The Hindu - May 03, 2004
- Eaklor, Vicki L. (2008). Queer America: A GLBT History of the 20th Century. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 212. ISBN 0-313-33749-7. Retrieved 2010-10-20. "The nineties also saw the first openly transgender person in a state office, Althea Garrison, elected in 1992 but serving only one term in Massachusetts' House."
- Haider-Markel, Donald P. (2010). Out and Running: Gay and Lesbian Candidates, Elections, and Policy Representation. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. p. 86. ISBN 1-58901-699-8. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
- Long, Tom (January 7, 1995). "Robert Hagopian, ran for office about 20 times in Hamilton; at 83". Boston Globe.
- Langner, Paul (September 29, 1974). "Hagopian says he'll fight move by Saugus selectmen to fire him". Boston Globe.
- Tanenhaus, Sam (2000-10-17). "Gus Hall, Unreconstructed American Communist of 7 Decades, Dies at 90". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-07-04.
- "Basil Marceaux biography". Knoxville News Sentinel. 2010-07-10. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
- Sher, Andy (2010-07-29). "Web hit: Marceaux goes viral with views". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- Mary Ruwart - Libertarian, Advocates for Self-Government