Perennial candidate

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A perennial candidate is a political candidate who frequently runs for an elected office but seldom wins. The term is not generally 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 or a natural safe seat for another party, 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 perennial candidates, although not all, run with the full knowledge of their inability to win elections 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).






  • Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ran for President of Brazil in 1989, 1994 and 1998, ranking second votes on each occasion. He ultimately won by landslide in 2002, and was reelected in 2006.
  • José Maria Eymael, a fringe political figure, ran for the Presidency four times (1998, 2006, 2010 and 2014); he failed to reach 1% of the votes in any of those. He also unsuccessfully ran for mayor of São Paulo in 1985 and 1992, though he won two terms on the lower house of the National Congress of Brazil, from 1987 to 1995.
  • Rui Costa Pimenta, leader and founder of the Trotskyist Workers' Cause Party, ran for the Presidency in 2002, 2010 and 2014 (his candidacy in 2006 was blocked by the Superior Electoral Court). He has placed last in all his runs, with his best performance being 0.04% of votes in 2002.
  • Vera Guasso, labor union leader and member of the Unified Socialist Workers Party (PSTU) ran for the Porto Alegre city assembly, mayor of Porto Alegre, the Brazilian Senate and other positions in a non-stop serial candidacy (every two years) from the early 90s on. In her best results, she had numbers of votes in local Porto Alegre elections similar to those of lesser-voted elected candidates, but did not get a seat due to her party´s overall voting being small. PSTU traditionally enters elections with no visible chance to, allegedly, "put a leftist set of points in discussion" and "build the party" but has lately achieved some expressive numbers.
  • Due to the complex and intrincate political system in Brazil concerning political parties, there are more than 30 of them. In this scenario, it is very useful to have hopeless candidates who can make a good number of votes and beef up a party (or alliance) overall votes count. As a consequence, there are thousands of small perennial candidates for local elections around the country, whose sole purpose is helping others get elected, then ask for a job in the elected government structure.



Costa Rica[edit]


Czech Republic[edit]




Palmer's house in Geradstetten boasted some of his election percentages
  • Helmut Palmer (1930–2004) stood without any success for about 250 elections as mayor in villages and cities in southwestern Germany and various times as independent candidate for the Bundestag.[4] His son Boris Palmer became mayor of Tübingen.


Hong Kong[edit]


  • Ástþór Magnússon is an Icelandic businessman and politician who unsuccessfully campaigned for the post of President of Iceland five times; in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2012 and 2016.








  • Raila Odinga leader of Orange Democratic Movement has been in the ballot three times, 1997, 2007, 2013 and has declared his intention to vie in the 2017 Kenya's presidential elections. Prior to that and under the old Kenyan Constitution, Raila was a Member of Parliament for the Lang'ata Constituency which includes Kenya's most impoverished and largest slum.

Raila who is referred to as 'Baba' by his followers mostly from his Luo community has never conceded defeat and always claims that the elections were rigged in favor of the winning candidates. Such Claims after the 2007 Kenya Elections led to the 2007–08 Kenyan crisis witnessed in Kenya in early 2008 that left over 1300[15] people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.


  • 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.
  • Cuautemoc Cardenas was a presidential candidate three times: 1988, 1994 and 2000, also was elected the first Head of Govermente of Mexico City in 1997, was leader of PRD, the wing-left mayor party and was Governor of the state of Michoacan.






  • Corneliu Vadim Tudor, former president and founder of PRM, unsuccessfully ran for President five times in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2009 and 2014. His biggest score was in 2000, when he gained 33.2% in the second round against Ion Iliescu.






United Kingdom[edit]

United States[edit]

  • Doug Bennett, former member of the Nantucket, Massachusetts Board of Selectmen and a Nantucket County Commissioner. Unsuccessful candidate for the Massachusetts Senate in 2006, Boston City Council in 2009 and 2011, United States Senate in 2013, Suffolk County Sheriff in 2014, and Suffolk County Register of Deeds in 2016.[19][20] [21]
  • Henning A. Blomen tried unsuccessfully to become Governor of Massachusetts 14 times.
  • Jeff Boss is a conspiracy theorist who believes that the National Security Agency is responsible for the September 11 attacks. He has run in the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections and plans to run in 2016.
  • 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.
  • William Bryk, New York attorney that has run for multiple offices, including running for the US Senate in 4 states simultaneously in 2014.
  • 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.
  • Mark Callahan has sought numerous offices under several different parties since 2009, including the Oregon House of Representatives, the United States Senate, several boards of education, and President of the United States. As of October 2016, his sole victory in a contested election was the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate from Oregon in 2016.
  • Guy Carbone,[citation needed] 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.
  • Mike Causey, a North Carolina Republican, has run for state Insurance Commissioner four times between 1992 and 2012, losing each time in 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2012, and is now the Republican nominee for North Carolina Commissioner of Insurance for a fifth time during the 2016 general election. In addition to losing all of those statewide races for the same office, Causey has run and lost races for Congress and the state legislature. He's been described as the "Harold Stassen of North Carolina" regarding his continuous statewide losses for the same Council of State 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Peter Diamondstone has run in many elections under the Liberty Union Party in Vermont since 1970.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.[22][23]
  • 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.[24] Previously served as Treasurer of Watertown, Massachusetts from 1955 to 1967.[25]
  • 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.[26]
  • 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, ran unsuccessfully for 20 political offices between 1993 and 2014.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gloria La Riva, a socialist activist, has run as either a Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate in every U.S. Presidential election since 1984.
  • 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.
  • Stan Lippman, an attorney and physicist, has unsuccessfully run for office more than eight times in the state of Washington.
  • Basil Marceaux, during the 2010 election cycle filed as a candidate for the Republican nominations for governor in the Tennessee gubernatorial election[27] and U.S. House of Representatives in Tennessee's 3rd congressional district.[28] 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.
  • 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.
  • James D. Martin, one of the first Republican politicians to make an electoral impact in the once solid-Democratic state of Alabama, ran for the U.S. Senate three times and governor of Alabama once in the 1960s and 1970s, and also unsuccessfully sought the office of state treasurer in 1994. By the time of Martin's 1978 Senate campaign, his opponent had already acknowledged him as the "Harold Stassen of Alabama."
  • Eugene McCarthy,[citation needed] 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,[citation needed] 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.
  • Uncle Mover, known for many years as Mike The Mover, who was born Michael Shanks but legally changed his name twice, has run for public office in Washington state more than 17 times to help promote his furniture moving business.
  • Ralph Nader, previous Green Party of the United States Presidential candidate, ran as the Green Party nominee in 1996 and 2000, and as an independent candidate in 2004 and 2008.
  • 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,[citation needed] 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 was 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.
  • Pro-Life, born Marvin Richardson, is an Idaho farmer who has run as an independent or as a Constitution Party candidate for the state House of Representatives, governor, and both houses of the United States Congress. He has expressed a commitment to continue running for public office until his death.
  • 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, ran for the state's two U.S. senate seats every election from 2002 to 2014 and died less than two weeks after his last race; 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.[29] 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 2016. He also ran for President with the endorsement of the American Solidarity Party in 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 2016, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.




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