Former vice presidential candidate Geraldine A. Ferraro, battered by sustained attacks on her character, trailed state Atty. Gen. Robert Abrams early today in New York's bitter Democratic Senate primary.
With 99% of the vote counted, Abrams led Ferraro by a single percentage point--37% to 36%.
Abrams had declared victory. "With virtually all of the districts in, we have an insurmountable lead," he told cheering supporters.
The Cable News Network and two local New York television stations predicted that Abrams would win, based on their computer analysis of the vote.
But Ferraro, a former congresswoman, refused to concede. In remarks to her backers, she said: "We are still in a 'maybe' mode. I would suggest we all go home and get a little sleep. . . . We are dead even, neck-and-neck, in a race that has been very tough this past month."
The Rev. Al Sharpton, a nationally known black activist, was running third, slightly ahead of New York City Controller Elizabeth Holtzman.
The four Democrats were vying for the chance to oppose Republican incumbent Alfonse M. D'Amato in November. He is viewed as vulnerable because of nagging charges of ethical improprieties.
In other primary results, two congressmen suffered defeats, bringing to 19 the number of House incumbents who have lost their re-nomination bids so far this year. That surpasses the post-World War II record of 18 House members who lost primaries in 1946.
The two who lost Tuesday were New York Democrat Stephen J. Solarz, considered a foreign policy expert in Congress, and Massachusetts Democrat Chester Atkins, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
Both men figured prominently in the House banking scandal--Solarz wrote 743 bad checks, Atkins 127. Reapportionment also was a factor in their political problems, especially in Solarz's case.
In another Massachusetts race, Democratic Rep. Nick Mavroules, indicted three weeks ago on 17 bribery and corruption charges, survived a tough primary challenge.
Also Tuesday, Marion Barry, the former mayor of Washington, D.C., staged a political comeback. Barry, released from prison in April after serving six months for possession of cocaine in a highly publicized case, defeated four other Democrats--including the incumbent--in a primary for a City Council nomination. His primary victory should be tantamount to victory in the heavily Democratic 8th Ward.
In Washington state, the announced retirement of Democratic Sen. Brock Adams following allegations of sexual harassment--which he denied--set off a fight for his party's nomination between state Sen. Patty Murray, who cast herself as a political outsider, and former Rep. Don Bonker. In early returns, Murray took a strong lead.
The winner is expected to face Republican Rep. Rod Chandler, the leading contender in the GOP primary.
Also in Washington state, a gubernatorial race to replace retiring Democrat Booth Gardner saw Republicans Sid Morrison, a congressman from rural eastern Washington, in a close race with state Atty. Gen. Ken Eikenberry. Among Democrats, Mike Lowry, a former congressman and unabashed liberal, took a big early lead over state House Speaker Joe King.
In the New York Senate race, a large lead Ferraro had held in the polls evaporated as Abrams and Holtzman launched broadsides questioning her character and ethics. Ferraro broadcast an extraordinary commercial only hours before the polls opened in an effort to rebut the attacks on her and stanch her slide in the polls.
Staring full-face into the camera, she declared: "My opponents have tried to turn me into an evil figure from the shadows. . . . I know of no other way to respond than to look you in the eye and swear to you that I have never been involved with organized crime."
Holtzman had led the charge against Ferraro, repeatedly charging that she and her husband, John A. Zaccaro, were slow to evict a reputed organized crime figure and child pornographer from a building they owned. Holtzman focused on $340,000 in rent the man paid while he remained a tenant three years after Ferraro had pledged he would be evicted.
Abrams contended that the House Ethics Committee had found that Ferraro had concealed her husband's business interests.
Ferraro, the only woman ever to run on a major party's national ticket, denied the allegations. She also sought to turn the tables on her opponents, contending they tried to distort her views.
Ferraro was viewed by many political observers as potentially the strongest Democratic candidate against D'Amato, in part because--unlike any of her primary opponents--she favors the return of the death penalty in New York state.
While the Democratic Senate brawl held center stage, several New York congressional primaries also attracted interest.
--In a new district encompassing parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, Solarz's bid to remain in Congress was thwarted by Nydia Velazquez, a leader of New York's Puerto Rican community. Reapportionment had divided the heavily Jewish district that Solarz had represented since 1974 into six slices, so he sought his party's nomination in a district drawn to create a Latino majority. Five Latino politicians entered the race, raising the prospect they would divide the ethnic vote. But Velazquez prevailed, winning 33% of the vote; Solarz ran second with 27%.
--On the West Side of Manhattan, Democrats overwhelmingly voted for a dead candidate--Rep. Ted Weiss, who died Monday after a long bout with heart disease. Democratic leaders pleaded with voters to memorialize the liberal congressman by denying the nomination--tantamount to election in the heavily Democratic district--to Arthur R. Block, a fringe candidate. Party leaders now will pick Weiss' successor.
--In the Bronx, former 10-term congressman Mario Biaggi, who served almost two years in federal prison for bribery and extortion, was soundly defeated in his bid to return to the House. Biaggi was swamped in the Democratic primary by the man who replaced him--Rep. Eliot L. Engel.
In primaries elsewhere, Oklahoma Democrat Rep. Mike Synar, the most liberal member of that state's congressional delegation, scored a narrow victory in a runoff.
Times researcher Doug Conner in Seattle contributed to this story.