The precarious city council balance of power that has maintained rent control in Cambridge for the past two years will apparently remain intact at least until 1983, ballots cast Tuesday and counted yesterday indicate.
A preliminary tally of all number-one votes under the city's complicated proportional representation system showed that the council will almost certainly continue to contain four conservatives, four liberals, and Alfred E. Vellucci as the swing vote.
In addition, the early result indicated that all the incumbents are likely to hold onto their seats. If no significant shifts occur as votes are transferred under the city's proportional representation voting scheme, the only new face on the council will be Independent Daniel Clinton--replacing Independent Kevin Crane, who did not run re-election.
Incumbent Saundra Graham seemed likely to stave off the challenge of fellow liberal Alice Wolf; a few observers said there was an outside possibility that both Wolf and Graham could win by ousting Vellucci, but low vote totals for Wolf make that prospect unlikely.
Independent Walter Sullivan led the city in total votes for the 11th straight election, collecting 2933 votes to go 425 over the "quota" needed for election.
Tenant rights activist David Sullivan finished second to Walter Sullivan for the second time in a row, collecting 2466 votes including the bulk of ballots cast by Harvard students.
The Sullivans were followed by Leonard J. Russell with 2022, David Wylie with 1938, Mayor Francis H. Duehay '55 with 1903, Clinton with 1853, Thomas W. Danehy with 1746, Vellucci with 1683 and Graham with 1658.
Wolf, who totalled more than 5000 votes in her run for school committee two years ago won 1286 votes yesterday, followed by first-time candidate Mary Allen Wilkes, who won 1261 votes with a campaign aimed at condominium owners, and Wendy Abt, who received only 1024 votes despite one of the city's costliest and most intense campaigns.
For Wolf to win a seat, she would need to overtake Graham or Vellucci as transfer votes are distributed when weak candidates are eliminated later in the week. Graham is expected, however, to pick up the bulk of number one votes cast for Alvin Thompson, the only other Black in the race, when he is eliminated, and Vellucci should win many transfers from Walter Sullivan's surplus.
"The gap between Wolf and Graham [372 votes] is just too great for her [Wolf] to make up," one member of the liberal Cambridge Civic Association (CCA), which endorsed both candidates, said when the count ended yesterday.
Citywide voter turnout was 25,552, or slightly more than 50 per cent, down more than 1000 votes from 1979.
The low turnout was apparently one factor in reducing the CCA's chance for a fifth liberal seat on the council; the six strong liberal candidates in the race divided up a liberal vote not much larger than that cast two years ago, when only four candidates split the liberal vote.
In the Harvard precincts, David Sullivan ran strong, picking up more than 150 votes in Ward 6, Precinct 3, where students who live at most of the River Houses vote. He tallied 82 votes in Ward 6, Precinct 4, which includes Mather, Dunster and part of Leverett House.
In Ward 7, Precinct 5, however, where most Quad residents vote, condo candidate Wilkes received 119 votes, followed by Wylie with 80, Duehay with 77, David Sullivan with 75, and Wolf with 51.
Counting of ballots in the school committee race will begin this morning, and the city council race will probably not be officially decided until Saturday.
Observers predicted that the continuing split on the council may allow Vellucci to become mayor--by a vote in the new council's first session. The East Cambridge resident ran strong in his home precincts, and picked up substantial support from across the city.
Walter Sullivan--who finished only a few votes in front of namesake David in 1979--won support in virtually every corner of the city after a campaign aides described as more vigorous than usual.
Running especially well in precincts where condominium conversion has become an issue, Wilkes may have laid the foundation for another, more successful council bid two years hence.
Among other candidates, former councilor Mary Ellen Preusser collected only 536 votes, and unaffiliated challenger John St, George won 466