Since announcing she was running for Congress this summer, Mount Prospect resident Patricia Bird has dropped out of the race three times - and reversed that decision three times.
The most recent flip-flop occurred Wednesday morning when, within a period of 78 minutes, she sent an e-mail to the Daily Herald saying she was out of the race and then another that she was still running.
One of seven Republicans seeking to replace U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk in the suburban 10th District, Bird is, at the moment, officially in the race. But her on-and-off-again candidacy has drawn concerns from two top suburban GOP leaders.
"She should drop out," said Dan Venturi, leader of the Lake County Republican Party. "I think she wants to run and not be bothered (with campaigning), which is offensive."
Venturi's counterpart in the Cook County GOP, Lee Roupas, also questioned Bird's bid.
"Every individual has the right to run for public office, but if a candidate is unwilling to make a good-faith effort to campaign and talk about the issues, then they should step out of the race," he said.
Bird rejected the criticisms.
"They can talk until they're blue in the face and it doesn't really matter," she said.
The race for the 10th District seat is expected to be one of the nation's most closely-watched political contests in 2010. Kirk, a Republican who is leaving the post so he can run for Senate, has held the seat since 2000 even though the district has largely supported Democratic candidates for president and other offices during that time.
In addition to Bird, the Republicans hopefuls are: William J. Cadigan of Winnetka; State Rep. Elizabeth Coulson of Glenview; Robert Dold of Kenilworth; Arie Friedman of Highland Park; Dick Green of Winnetka; and Paul Hamann of Lake Forest.
Four Democrats are running in a separate primary. A Green Party candidate is running, too.
In the crowded Republican primary, Cadigan, Coulson, Dold and Green have been leading the pack so far when it comes to getting their names in front of the public and fundraising.
Bird, who unsuccessfully campaigned to be Mount Prospect's mayor earlier this year, has been comparatively silent. Although she appeared at a GOP candidate forum Sunday night in Northbrook, she has a bare-bones campaign Web site and hasn't yet raised enough money to file a quarterly campaign-finance disclosure report.
She also keeps saying she's dropping out of the race.
The first withdrawal came when she called the Daily Herald Sept. 3 - about two months before nominating petitions were filed - but changed her mind a few days later and told reporters she would stay in the race.
The second announcement came Nov. 12, a little more than a week after Bird filed paperwork to be on the ballot. Bird called two reporters at the Daily Herald to say she was dropping out.
The calls were made the same week a Highland Park resident formally challenged Bird's candidate petitions in an effort to remove her from the ballot. The case has not been decided, election board records indicate.
Two days after the Nov. 12 calls, Bird again telephoned the Daily Herald and said she wasn't dropping out.
Her final flip-flop occurred Wednesday morning in an e-mail exchange with the Daily Herald. That exchange was prompted by interview requests for this story.
When interviewed Wednesday, Bird said she dropped out the first two times because she was frustrated with the Daily Herald and the political process, and because her candidacy had been challenged. Bird said she reversed her Wednesday-morning decision to withdraw after reviewing campaign-related paperwork.
Venturi can't figure out Bird's motivations.
"I think she's running a stealth campaign," he said. "We've got a great field (of candidates), and I don't know what her end game is."
Venturi is concerned Bird could take votes away from other Republicans - specifically Coulson, who is the only other woman running for the nomination. With so many contenders, the winner in the Feb. 2 primary probably won't receive 25 percent of the votes cast, Venturi said, and a few percentage points could make a significant difference.
"She doesn't stand a chance of winning," said Venturi, who has never met or spoken with Bird. "She could only be a spoiler."
When asked if he believes any other GOP candidates should withdraw, Venturi didn't mention any names.
The Cook County GOP's Roupas said he knows little about Bird and hasn't met her - a rarity for this race, he said.
"It's frustrating when people come out of the woodwork," Roupas said.
Bird insisted anyone has a right to run for public office. She has not hired a campaign manager or staff and said she doesn't need to do any fundraising to win the election - even though past 10th District races have cost candidates millions of dollars.
"I am a firm believer that fundraising does absolutely nothing to improve or market campaigns the way they should be marketed," she said.
"If I was running for Senate or for president I'd be fundraising," she added. "You don't need that kind of money at all (to win a House seat)."