John J. Kuryak, making his first run for public office, narrowly defeated two-term incumbent Mayor Kathleen M. Staniszewski in the Democratic primary.
The mayor remains on the Election Day ballot as the Conservative Party candidate, and both said the final outcome remains to be seen. But with the city overwhelmingly Democratic, the primary victory is a huge boost for Kuryak.
Complete but unofficial totals give Kuryak an 87-vote victory, 2,425-2,338.
Within 15 minutes of the polls' closing, Kuryak supporters were driving past Staniszewski headquarters with blaring horns, and Ms. Staniszewski said it was apparent early she was in trouble.
"I'm breathless," said Kuryak, who quit as the city engineer to run while maintaining a Civil Service job.
"But there's no way it's over. There's still 7,000 people who didn't vote," he said, referring to those who didn't vote the primary but are eligible in the general election. He said he had 40 or 50 supporters working the phones Tuesday, urging people to get out and vote. He carried three of the four wards, the exception being the mayor's own Fourth Ward, where incumbent Councilman Ronald Spadone also was a winner.
Ms. Staniszewski remained upbeat and positive, even as supporters slowly drifted away from in front of her headquarters near City Hall as the outcome became clear.
"I knew it would be close, but I'm a little surprised," she admitted. "But it's not over yet. We'll just have to get out and work that much harder."
She accused the Kuryak campaign of accompanying voters into voting booths in the First Ward, a charge Kuryak denied.
City Council President Edward D. Tokarz, seeking his fourth term, lost to endorsed Democratic candidate Norman L. Polanski, 2,082 to 1,348. Andrea Haxton received 402 votes. Tokarz remains on the ballot as the Republican candidate.
Spadone, seeking his third term as Fourth Ward councilman, defeated Anthony J. Mingarelli Jr., 972 to 430. Mingarelli is the son of the former city Democratic chairman.