Perennial candidate

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A perennial candidate is a political figure who repeatedly runs for the same office in successive elections, and consistently fails. The term has the strong implication that the candidate has never or seldom won any election to the posts that they have sought.

Perennial candidates all have different reasons for the campaigns they run, year-after-year:

  • Some honestly believe that they will win, and sometimes they can even give good reasons for that belief. William Jennings Bryan, populist and perennial Democratic Party candidate for the United States Presidency, ran for office a third time in a cycle where the voters seemed to be increasingly tired of the Republicans, only to lose when a booming economy lifted the incumbency in the eyes of the electorate.
  • Some perennial candidates run for election to raise awareness for their party or their party's cause. Eugene V. Debs was perhaps the most famous such individual in American history, running as the Socialist Party candidate for President in five elections. Each time he ran, the number of votes he gained rose dramatically — even the final time, when he was extremely ill and campaigning from a prison.
  • Some such candidates run for office in order to establish themselves as head of their political movement, or to ensure their position as a strong leader. The white nationalist David Duke has run for office dozens of times, for both major parties, over many years and for many positions. While he has actually succeeded in winning an election a very small number of times (he did spend two years as a representative in Louisiana), arguably Duke's main purpose has been to cement his position as one of the most prominent leaders of America's white nationalist movement.
  • And finally, some candidates, such as Vermin Supreme, do it for satire.

Famous perennial candidates in the USA[edit]

Chris Bell
Served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives (2003–2005). Ran unsuccessfully for Texas State Representative (1984), Mayor of Houston, Texas (2001), reelection to Congress (2004), Governor of Texas (2006), and Texas State Senate (2008).
Jerry Brown
After a term as California Secretary of State and two terms as Governor, also went through a period of this and ran, unsuccessfully, for President in 1976, 1980 and 1992, and for U.S. Senate in 1982 and 1992, withdrawing from the latter to run for President again. More recently, he has begun winning elections again, as mayor of Oakland, then returning for a third term as Governor in 2011 and then a record-breaking fourth term. California über alles.
Ted BrownWikipedia
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 Jennings Bryan (1860–1925)
Was the Democratic Party nominee for president three times and unsuccessfully sought the nomination twice.[1] Unlike other perennials, though, Bryan tended to avoid running if the political landscape didn't favor him. He had a very good shot at winning in 1896 and a decent one of winning in 1908. His 1900 campaign was even acknowledged by him as quixotic, but the Democratic Party had no one else of national standing to turn to, and this was made blatantly obvious when he chose not to run in 1904 and the Democrats chose a little known Judge named Alton Parker to run.
Pat "I'm More Catholic Than the Pope" Buchanan
A long-standing embarrassment to both the right and left. Author of Suicide of a Superpower, which hilariously had a chapter titled "The End of White America." Similar to Ron Paul, he wants to roll back NATO and focus on domestic problems. Sounds great, says the liberal, what's wrong with that? Well, among other things, Pat is an apologist for Putin and Hitler. His famous "Culture War" speech had the unintended effect of throwing the election to Clinton in '92, so thanks for that. He lost a second nomination to Bob Dole, and ran on the Reform Part ticket in 2000. In the biggest WTF moment of that election (high praise indeed), he secured .08% of the vote in Palm Beach, a Jewish-American stronghold.
Henry Clay (1777–1852)
Was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a U.S. Senator. He ran for President in 1824, 1832, 1840, 1844, and 1848.[2]
John H. CoxWikipedia
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, and as the Republican nominee for California's 2018 gubernatorial election (where he moved to in 2011).
Jacob Coxey (1854–1951)
Best known for his 1894 March on Washington, DC, ran 3 times for US Senate for Ohio, and twice as the People's PartyWikipedia nominee for Governor of Ohio in 1895 and 1897. Coxey also was the Mayor of Massillon, OH from 1931 to 1933 in addition to losing numerous congressional races.
Eugene V. Debs (1855–1926)
Was a presidential candidate for the Social Democratic PartyWikipedia 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 1917Wikipedia with a speech opposing the draft, he received 913,664 votes, the most ever for a Socialist Party presidential candidate.
Earl DodgeWikipedia 1932–2007)
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.
Charles Doty (1924–2003)
Ran for the Democratic Party nomination for President in every election from 1984 to 2000. Came to prominence in 2000 when The Daily Show did several segments on him.
David Duke
Unsuccessfully ran for President as a Democrat in 1988 and then as a Republican in 1992. He also ran for Louisiana's seat in the United States Senate in 1990, 1996, and 2016.
Joe Exotic
Real name Joseph Allen Maldonado, he's a zookeeper and convicted felon who is best known for hiring two hitmen to kill his rival Carol Baskin. He also ran as an independent presidential candidate in 2016, for the governorship of Oklahoma as a Libertarian in 2018, and is running again for president in 2024 as a Democrat of all things.
Jack Fellure
Fellure is nothing if not persistent. Now in his eighties, he's been chasing the Oval Office for nearly three decades, running in every presidential election since '88, usually as a Republican — the sole exception being his 2012 campaign, when he swerved and sought the Prohibition Party bid. (No shit, we thought they were extinct, too.) On election day, his name appeared on the ballot in only one state: Louisiana, where he received 518 votes. When asked to submit his platform to the FEC, Fellure, a retired engineer, presented them a copy of the 1611 King James Bible. He promises that, if elected President, open copies of that specific version of the Bible will litter the Oval Office, turned to passages he considers of immense importance.
John W. Griffin (1927–2006)
Ran unsuccessfully for Ohio's 8th congressional district six times between 1976 to 1998, and losing the 1978 Congressional race in Ohio's 4th congressional district. Griffin did serve two separate terms on Ohio's elected State Board of Education.
John HagelinWikipedia
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.
Gus Hall (1910–2000)
Leader of the Communist Party USA, ran for Governor of Ohio in 1940 and for the presidency four times, from 1972 to 1984 inclusive.[3]
Jesse Jackson
Founder of the Rainbow PUSH coalition sought the Democratic nomination in 1984 and 1988, and is said to have considered bids in 1996 and 2000.
Arthur J. Jones
Neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier who ran for office several times as a Republican in Milwaukee and Illinois 1976, 1984, 1987, 1992, 1996, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2012, and 2018. He never got elected in his times he ran for office.
Bob Kelleher (1923–2011)
An attorney from Montana, ran for Congress as a Democrat in 1968 and 1976, ran as a Green candidate for the Montana State Senate in 2000, for the U.S. Senate in 2002 and 2006, and for Governor of Montana in 2004, and was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in 2008. [1]
Alan Keyes
Has run for U.S. President in 1996, 2000, and 2008. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 1988, 1992, and, in 2004, against Barack Obama in Illinois. He never got elected to anything.
Lyndon LaRouche (1922-2019)
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 (only in the primaries, of course, he never won the nomination). 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 ran eight campaigns for a variety of offices.
Tom Laughlin (1931-2013)
An actor, cult filmmaker, and educator, best known for the Billy Jack movies which combine polemic about the treatment of Native Americans with a good dose of ass-whupping, but also head of a Montessori school for a while. He tried to get on the Democrat ticket against George H. W. Bush in 1992 and twice tried for a Republican nomination.
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.
Eugene McCarthy (1916–2005)
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.
Ralph Nader
A noted consumer rights advocate, has run for the presidency four consecutive times and ran as a write-in candidate in the 1992 New Hampshire primary. Nader ran twice as the nominee of the U.S. Green Party (in 1996 and 2000). In 2004 and 2008, he ran as an independent. Nader's 2.7% in the 2000 election has led to controversy as to whether he spoiled the election for Al Gore.
Jim Oberweis
An 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.
Ron Paul
"Help me with my End-of-the-Quarter moneybomb! And don't forget about my Thanksgiving moneybomb, my Christmas moneybomb, my New Year's moneybomb, my Start-of-the-quarter moneybomb, and my leap day moneybomb." It's clear now why Trump took all his followers: he's bootstrapping himself into the presidency while the Pauls are asking for handouts.
Pat Paulsen (1927–1997)
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.
Nelson Rockefeller (1908-1979)
Four-term governor of New York, ran for President three times, lost the primaries to Nixon, Goldwater, and Nixon again. Eventually became VP under Ford.
Mary RuwartWikipedia
A member of the Libertarian Party, campaigned unsuccessfully for the party's presidential nomination in 1984 and 2008 and for the vice-presidential nomination in 1992.[4] Ruwart was the Libertarian Party of Texas' nominee for U.S. Senate in 2000, losing with only 1.16% of the popular vote.
Bernie Sanders
Went through a period of this, before being elected Mayor of Burlington, and eventually winning a seat in the US Senate, representing Vermont as in Independent.
Charles W. Sanders
The former Mayor of Waynesville, OH, ran 4 unsuccessful campaigns for Ohio's 2nd Congressional district between 1998 and 2004.
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 (1907–2001)
One-time Governor of Minnesota and one of five representatives of the United States who signed the original United Nations Charter. Ran for the Republican nomination for President on nine occasions between 1948 and 1992. While Stassen was considered a serious candidate in 1948 and 1952, his attempts were increasingly met with derision and then amusement as the decades progressed. He also ran in 10 other races for lower offices.
Joe Sweeney (1944–2011)
Has run for U.S. Congress in Arizona 13 times and lost 13 times. He has run as a Republican, a Democrat, and once on the New Alliance Party[note 1] ticket. He is a homophobe who denounces "sodomites" for their "genital drive"[5] and once posted handbills falsely claiming openly gay Republican congressman Jim Kolbe had AIDS[6]. He has won contested Republican primaries over the party-backed candidate probably because of name recognition from running so many times before.
Vermin Supreme
Dada-esque performance artist from Massachusetts who has run three times, twice as a Republican and once as a Democrat. Zombie turbines? This guy has my vote. Foresaw the future when he told the Village Voice, "I’m a meme, and only one meme can really be president, I think." Earns "Good Citizen" points for donating a kidney to his mother. As a downside, he wants to make kidney donation compulsory for everyone.
Jeffrey C. Thomas (1940–2009)
A physician and former Janesville, WI city council member, lost 4 consecutive race for Wisconsin's 1st Congressional seat between 2000 and 2008.
Norman ThomasWikipedia (1884–1968)
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.
Robby WellsWikipedia
Former football coach at Savannah State University. Claimed he was forced to resign due to reverse racism. Surely it had nothing to do with his 7-15 record as a head coach. Ran for President in 2012, 2016, and 2020, and has announced his candidacy for 2024.
Charles Woods (1921–2004)
An Alabama businessman whose face was badly disfigured from World War II who ran for governor of Alabama in 1966, 1970, and 1978, lieutenant governor in 1974, U. S. Senate from Alabama in 1996 and Nevada in 1992 and 1994, U. S. Congress from Alabama in 2000 and 2002, and for President of the United States in the 1992 Democratic primaries. While successful and respected as a businessman, his campaigns were not taken seriously due to his appearance, and he was never elected to anything, although he came close to winning a couple of primaries.
Arnold Zandi (1909–1994)
A hot dog vendor at University of Tennessee sporting events, ran for Knoxville City Council, Mayor of Knoxville, Governor of Tennessee, the United States Senate, and the United States Presidency, all unsuccessfully. He always ran as an independent and always refused to accept campaign contributions. His campaign slogan was "Zandi's a Dandy!", which may have turned off some people.
Gloria La RivaWikipedia
A member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the Peace and Freedom Party, who ran for President four times (1992, 2008, 2012, 2016), ran for Vice President four times (1984, 1988, 1996, 2000), ran for Governor of California thrice (1994, 1998, 2018), ran for Mayor of San Francisco twice (1983, 1991), and ran for Representative for California's 8th district (2010).
Jimmy McMillan
Founder, Chairman, and Leader of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party, a party almost entirely focused on rent control and cutting property taxes. Ran five gubernatorial campaigns (1994, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018), four mayoral campaigns (1993, 2005, 2009, 2013), presidential campaign (2012), a Senate campaign (2000), and a City Council campaign (2017).

Famous perennial candidates in the United Kingdom[edit]

The British electoral system allows anyone who can get enough votes on the nomination sheet and the entrance fee to register for election, which gives rise to a number of minority interest candidates and joke candidates in most elections (up to twenty or so in a given constituency).

Some of the minor candidates are regulars:

Bill BoaksWikipedia (1904–1986)
A road safety campaigner and former Royal Navy officer. He first stood in 1951 for ADMIRAL (Association of Democratic Monarchists Representing All Women), later using labels including Trains & Boats & Planes and Public Safety Democratic Monarchist White Resident; despite these labels his chief interest was roads, bringing private prosecutions against celebrities involved in car accidents and using civil disobedience to promote a road safety message.[7] He set a record by getting just 5 votes in a by-election in 1982.[8] Ironically died of complications from injuries he received after two road accidents (one in 1982 and one in 1984).[9]
Screaming Lord SutchWikipedia (1940–1999)
After an early career as a "shock rocker", referencing Jack the Ripper and being brought on stage in a coffin, he was best known for repeatedly standing in elections from 1963 when he contested the by-election following the resignation of the disgraced John ProfumoWikipedia. At first he stood for the National Teenage Party, and later for the Official Monster Raving Loony Party. The highpoint was beating the remains of David Owen's Social Democratic Party in a by-election in 1990 (causing the SDP to disband shortly after). Sutch committed suicide in 1999, still deeply affected by the death of his mother two years before.[10]
Lord BucketheadWikipedia
He is unusual for having been played by several people since his first candidancy in 1987. Typically he has stood against party leaders in their constituencies, but purely as a joke rather than for any political message. Mike Lee was first to don the bucket in 1987 for the Gremloids party standing against Margaret Thatcher, and borrowing the costume from filmmaker Todd Durham; later Buckethead was affiliated with the Monster Raving Loonies. After 2017 there was a dispute over who had rights to the name and character, and Buckethead campaigned against Brexit and Nigel Farage. Jonathan Harvey, a former Buckethead, stood as Count BinfaceWikipedia in the 2019 and 2021 General Elections with a very similar campaign to his tenure. [11]
Lord Toby JugWikipedia (1965–2019)
Toby Jug stood for the Official Monster Raving Loony Party but fell out with party leader Howling Laud Hope over the latter's support for Brexit and xenophobic remarks; Hope was trying to get funding from pub chain J D Wetherspoon plc run by Eurosceptic entrepreneur Tim Martin, but Jug's Europhilia was in conflict. And too many loonies are bound to create strife. He later founded The Eccentric Party of Great Britain. Jug stood in several council and parliamentary elections, getting 175 votes against Michael Howard for the Loonies in 2005.[12]
Adam Lyal's Witchery Tour Party
Writer, film producer, and tour guide Robin MitchellWikipedia stood in several elections in Scotland from 1999 to 2009 dressed as a highwayman to promote the titular walking tours of Edinburgh.[13]

Famous perennial candidates in Indonesia[edit]

Prabowo SubiantoWikipedia
His time in the army was full of controversies, but that did not hinder him from running in Indonesian presidential elections three times in 2009Wikipedia, 2014Wikipedia, and 2019Wikipedia, which all resulted in nothing but defeat. Had an interesting statistic that proclaimed Central Java province to be larger than Malaysia.[14] and claimed that terrorist attacks in Indonesia were caused by poverty and perpetrated by non-Muslims disguised as Muslims, sent by other countries and controlled by foreigners.[15]

Other famous perennial candidates[edit]

Marine Le Pen (1968–)
Far-right French politician who ran for, and lost the presidential election twice.[note 2]
Pascual Racuyal (1911–2004)
Filipino eccentric who, like Vermin Supreme, went on a more, ahem, interesting approach for his campaign as the president of the Philippines. Racuyal sought the presidency for much of the Philippines' history in the 20th century, from the Commonwealth eraWikipedia up until 1986 when the Commission on Elections put a stop to his antics and branded him a nuisance candidateWikipedia, i.e. a person who is clearly making a mockery out of the elections.


  1. How this happened is anyone's guess, since the New Alliance Party was pro-gay rights.
  2. 2017 and 2022