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In the most closely watched race in San Francisco, a police officer has narrowly won the right to bring his 10-pound wooden partner - a ventriloquist's dummy - with him on patrol.

With all the votes counted, voters Tuesday barely passed Proposition BB, placed on the ballot by San Francisco police officer Bob Geary after his superiors decreed that his dummy, Brendan O'Smarty, was no longer welcome on the policeman's beat in North Beach and Chinatown.The puppet on the ballot has drawn national attention to the quirky issues that give San Francisco the seriocomic reputation it has enjoyed since the wild days of the Barbary Coast. It also alternately delighted or outraged citizens who also were voting on nuts-and-bolts matters such as tax increases, police salaries and bond measures.

"A lot of youth believe in the dummy," said Eleni Benetatos, sitting in North Beach's Caffe Puccini Tuesday night, explaining why she voted in favor of Proposition BB.

Benetatos, born in Salonika, Greece, said European political systems are not as open as America's. "I think it's a good idea to give the public a chance to vote. In Europe, they just do it."

However, her husband, George, a San Francisco native, said he voted against Brendan O'Smarty because "it's an embarrassment."

"It makes San Francisco look ridiculous. It means we're a city of infants."

Geary, 53, started patrolling Chinatown and North Beach with the dummy in 1991. Brendan O'Smarty proved such a hit that news organizations, including CBS and CNN, did segments on the dummy and its effect on the public's image of law enforcement.