Perennial candidate

A perennial candidate is a political candidate who frequently runs for an elected office and rarely, if ever, wins. The term is not generally extended to incumbent politicians who repeatedly defend their seats successfully.

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, name recognition, and television advertising benefits).




Due to the complex and intricate political system in Brazil concerning political parties, there are more than 30 political parties. In this scenario, it is very useful to have hopeless candidates who can make a good number of votes and beef up the overall votes count of a party (or alliance). 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.

  • 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.
  • Enéas Carneiro, cardiologist and founder of the far-right Party of the Reconstruction of the National Order (PRONA), ran for presidency 3 times, in 1989, 1994 and 1998. He was mostly known for his comical style of speech on political broadcasts (due in part to the reduced TV time his party had) and his distinct beard. He also ran for mayor in São Paulo at the 2000 elections before finally being elected federal deputy in 2002 with record voting. He was reelected in 2006 but died in 2007 from a myeloid leukemia.



  • Horacio Serpa Uribe, three-times Liberal Party´s presidential candidate (1998, 2002, 2006).
  • Antanas Mockus, two-times presidential candidate (2006, 2010), one-time vicepresidential candidate (1998).
  • Noemí Sanín, three-times Conservative Party´s presidential candidate (1998, 2002, 2010).
  • Álvaro Gómez Hurtado, three times Conservative Party´s presidential candidate (1974, 1986, 1990).
  • Enrique Peñalosa, five-times Bogotá´s mayor candidate (1994, 1997, 2007, 2011, 2015), one time senatorial candidate (2006), one time presidential candidate (2014).

Costa Rica


  • Nicolás Zúñiga y Miranda was a presidential candidate 10 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.
  • Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas was a presidential candidate three times: 1988, 1994 and 2000, also was elected the first Head of Government of Mexico City in 1997, was leader of PRD, the left-wing mayor party and was Governor of the state of Michoacan.

United States

Eastern states

Central 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.
  • Arthur J. Jones is a Neo-Nazi who unsuccessfully pursued the Republican nomination in Illinois' 3rd congressional district seven times since 1984 before winning the nomination unopposed in 2018, and then losing in the general election. His candidacy was strongly denounced by national and local party officials. Additionally, he has made unsuccessful bids for Mayor of Milwaukee, Mayor of Chicago and Chicago City Council.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, winning reelection to that seat in 2016. He was the 2014 Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate.
  • 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.
  • Spencer Zimmerman, Wisconsin Air Force Veteran, unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in Nebraska, Wisconsin State Assembly, Wisconsin Secretary of State, U.S. Representative in the Wisconsin 1st District as a Trump conservative.

Western states


  • 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 ran unsuccessfully for the 2008 Republican nomination for President of the United States. He became the Republican candidate in the 2018 California gubernatorial election after placing second in California's nonpartisan blanket primary.
  • 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 ran in many elections under the Liberty Union Party in Vermont from 1970 until 2016; he died in 2017.
  • 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.
  • David Duke, American white supremacist, activist, antisemitic conspiracy theorist, Holocaust denier, convicted felon, and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. A former Republican Louisiana State Representative, Duke was a candidate in the Democratic presidential primaries in 1988 and the Republican presidential primaries in 1992. Duke also ran unsuccessfully for the Louisiana State Senate, United States Senate, United States House of Representatives, and for Governor of Louisiana.
  • Jack Fellure ran for the Republican Party nomination in every presidential election from 1988 to 2016, and declared that he will run in 2020. In the 2012 campaign, he withdrew from the Republican nomination race, and become the presidential nominee of the Prohibition Party.
  • Howie Hawkins, co-founder of the Green Party, has run in over 20 elections since 1993, never winning.
  • Alan Keyes, former assistant secretary of state and conservative activist. ran for President of the United States in 1996, 2000, and 2008. He was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Maryland against Paul Sarbanes in 1988 and Barbara Mikulski in 1992, as well as in Illinois against Barack Obama in 2004. Keyes lost all three elections by wide margins.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


  • Shawn O'Hara, a member of the Reform Party, ran for office 52 times over his career, including 19 runs for the United States Senate and 5 runs for Governor of Mississippi.
  • Sam Sloan, a polymath with interests in board games, obscure foreign languages, and over-the-counter stock trading, has run for New York governor in every election since 2006, for the U.S. Presidency in 2012 and 2016, New York City Mayor in 2009 and 2013, and U.S. Congress in 2014 and 2016. He has run as a Democrat, a Libertarian and under various third parties.
  • 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 nine times between 1944 and 1992. 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.
  • Jill Stein, a physician and member of the Green Party. Stein has run for Governor of Massachusetts in 2002 and 2010, president in 2012 and 2016, Massachusetts House of Representatives in 2004 and Secretary of the Commonwealth in 2006. However, she was elected to the Town of Lexington Town Meeting Representative in 2005 and 2008.
  • Milton Street ran for Mayor of Philadelphia in 2007, 2011, and 2015 (but withdrew in 2007 to run for an at-large City Council seat instead) and for US Congress in 1984. A businessman and activist, he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1978 and the Pennsylvania State Senate in 1980, but lost his first reelection in 1984. He is the older brother of former Philadelphia Mayor John Street
  • 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
  • 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. He also ran for Governor of New York in 1924, for Mayor of New York in 1925, for New York State Senate in 1926, for Alderman in 1927, for Mayor of New York again in 1929, and for the US Senate in New York in 1934. 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.
  • Ronald Graeser has run for Congress in Michigan’s 2nd District every election since 2000. Each time was as the US Taxpayers candidate.






  • Raila Odinga leader of Orange Democratic Movement has been in the ballot five times—1997, 2007, 2013 and 2017 (both times) 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 1,300[18] people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.






Asia and Oceania



Hong Kong



  • 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 Record 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 President of India[21]) 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 presidential election, in which he earned fourth place in the polling with 1,135 votes, eventually losing to Shankar Dayal Sharma.
  • Dr K Padmarajan a doctor turned politician from the state of Tamil Nadu, had contested 199 elections and lost all of them. Limca book of records named him as "India's most unsuccessful candidate".[22]










Czech Republic

  • Jana Bobošíková is known for a series of unsuccessful candidatures in various elections. She unsuccessfully ran two times for President of the Czech Republic (2008 and 2013), the Chamber of Deputies (2010 and 2013), the Senate (2010 and 2012), Mayor of Prague (2010) and general manager of Czech Television (2009).
  • Petr Hannig is the leader of Party of Common Sense. Since 2002, he has repeatedly run for the Chamber of Deputies and Senate.[35][36] He also ran for Czech presidency in 2018 election.,[37] but failed as well, ending last but one with 0,57% of votes.
  • Miroslav Sládek ran for the Czechoslovak presidency in 1992. After dissolution of Czechoslovakia he sought the Czech presidency in 1993, 1998 and 2018.[38] He withdrawn from 2018 election due to failure of his party in the 2017 legislative election.[39]
  • Jan Švejnar unsuccessfully ran for Czech presidency in 2008. He also ran for the position in 2013 but withdrew. He planned to run for the office in 2018 but he didn't receive political support. Some politicians noted that Švejnar lives in the United States and "shows up in the Czech Republic only when there is a presidential election."[40]



  • 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.[41] His son Boris Palmer became mayor of Tübingen.


  • 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.



  • Marco Pannella is described by many as a perennial candidate, even though he was actually elected multiple times as a member of the Italian Parliament, the European Parliament, and the municipal councils of a handful of cities.



  • 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


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