Every election cycle, the Democratic and Republican parties announce their final presidential candidates, and those two obviously get the most attention. Along the way, there are many nominees that attempt to get elected but are knocked out in the primaries. Over the course of the Democratic Party, there have been some interesting names that were interesting but didn’t make it all the way to November. Here are some of those forgotten Democratic presidential candidates:
John Wolfe Jr.
Not many party nominees would be willing to unseat an incumbent that’s up for reelection, but don’t tell that to John Wolfe Jr. In 2012, Wolfe (who had lost four congressional elections in Tennessee by that point) attempted to take Barack Obama’s Democratic Party bid. While he ultimately wouldn’t come close, he still did have the second most delegates with 23.
The former Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, Dennis Kucinich had a lot of momentum going into the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. Unfortunately for Kucinich, he took on the more famous John Kerry in his first bid and then the massively popular Barack Obama in the second. Kucinich continued to serve as a congressman following his two lost bids and was unsuccessful in trying to reclaim his spot as Cleveland’s mayor in 2021.
A former professional basketball player who went to Princeton, Bill Bradley had a long career in politics, serving as a senator representing New Jersey from 1979 until 1997. After his term in the Senate, Bradley ran for President in 2000, but it was an ill-advised run. Bradley would be pitted against Al Gore, who had just got done serving eight years as the country’s Vice President and was a shoo-in for the Democratic nod.
Very few people have been as persistent in their attempts to become the President as Lyndon LaRouche. LaRouche was in charge of his own movement and represented the Socialist Workers from 1949 until 1964, then the Labor Party from 1973 until 1979, running for President under the latter party in 1976. LaRouche then switched over to the Democratic Party, where he received some votes but was never considered a serious candidate due to his imprisonment. In total, LaRouche ran in every election from 1976 until 2000.
After serving as the Governor of California from 1975 until 1983, Jerry Brown attempted to run for Senate but ultimately lost. Brown then set his sights even higher, running as the Democratic nominee for President during the 1992 election. Brown had some early momentum, but Bill Clinton’s popularity skyrocketed, leaving Brown behind. Brown would then become the Mayor of Oakland before returning to the Governorship in California.
Back in 1984, Gary Hart was serving as a Senator representing Colorado when he decided to run for President. Hart had a strong run, but was ultimately defeated by Walter Mondale. Hart then ran again in 1988 and was well on his way to earning the nomination. However, an affair scandal derailed his campaign, ultimately leading to Michael Dukakis winning the nomination. Hart’s career would recover, returning to the Senate and then working under Barack Obama as the Vice Chair of the Homeland Security Advisory Council and US Special Envoy for Northern Ireland.
Gary Hart wasn’t the only Democratic hopeful in 1984 that people may have forgotten about. Astronaut John Glenn also ran for President during that election cycle, but would end up coming in fourth place. Glenn had a long resume by that time, having served in World War II, eventually becoming the first American to orbit Earth, and was also a Senator representing Ohio. After Glenn’s bid didn’t result in him being on the final ticket, Glenn returned to his Senate duties where he served for just over 24 years, retiring in 1999 and heading to space one more time before his death in 2016.