With 52 per cent of the votes counted, Republican S.I. Hayakawa was narrowly leading incumbent Sen. John V. Tunney (D-Calif.) in the California senatorial race last night.
The Associated Press reported that Hayakawa led Tunney by 1500 out of a total of 3.6 million votes tallied.
A critical factor affecting the outcome appeared to be the failure of Tunney to win votes in heavily Democratic areas of the state. Polls conducted last week had shown the race to be dead even.
The 70-year-old Hayakawa, with a longstanding reputation in academic circles as a semanticist, achieved national recognition in 1968 as president of San Francisco State College; he took a decisive stand against student protests there and, in one widely publicized incident, personally ripped the wires out of a student sound truck.
After retiring from San Francisco State in 1973, Hayakawa switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party because of what he termed his dissatisfaction with Democratic support of political radicals.
In the 1974 Republican senatorial primary, he attempted to run against incumbent Alan Cranston but was disqualified because he was not a registered Republican for a year before the election.
He unexpectedly defeated Robert Finch, former lieutenant governor of California and Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under Nixon, in the state primary this June.
This is the first time Hayakawa has run for public office.
At the start of the campaign, observers said they believed Tunney was likely to be elected to a second term.
However, voter dissatisfaction later developed over the large amount of time he was spending away from California.
Tunney also had to fight a difficult and costly primary campaign against Tom Hayden, former radical leader and Chicago Seven defendant.
Tunney went to the Senate in 1970 by defeating Republican George Murphy.