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 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 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).
Shirley de la Hunty (née Strickland), a multiple Olympic gold medallist in athletics, unsuccessfully contested six state elections in Western Australia and seven federal elections. Her candidacies spanned from 1971 to 1996, and included runs for the lower and upper houses at both state and federal level. She stood a number of times for the Australian Democrats, while the rest of her runs were made as an independent candidate.
Terry Duguid, is a Manitoba politician who has run multiple times for city council, mayor and MP in Winnipeg. He lost the 1995 Winnipeg Civic election, and lost the 2004 and 2006 federal election in Kildonan St-Paul before running and losing in Winnipeg South in 2011, he ran again in 2015, winning the seat with 58% of the vote.
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.
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.
Régent Millette is a teacher in Quebec who has run for public office at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels over 25 times since the year 2000
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. His son Boris Palmer became mayor of Tübingen.
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.
Bill Boaks contested general elections and by-elections for a period of 30 years under various descriptions, most famously under the "Public Safety Democratic Monarchist White Resident" banner. 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 1982 Glasgow Hillhead by-election 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.