LAWRENCE M. Farnese Jr., a Center City lawyer backed by the still-powerful organization of state Sen. Vince Fumo, won a surprise victory yesterday for the Democratic nomination to replace Fumo in Harrisburg.

Farnese, 39, racked up huge margins among voters in Society Hill and Center City to beat John J. Dougherty, the powerful business manager of the city electricians union.

Fumo and City Councilman Frank DiCicco, who have feuded with Dougherty for years, led a small crowd of supporters chanting, "Doc is dead, Doc is dead," at Farnese's victory celebration at the Paradiso restaurant on Passyunk Avenue.

Dougherty "finally put himself on the line against someone who nobody knew and he got his ass kicked," Fumo told a reporter. "What else can you ask for?"

Anne Dicker, a 35-year-old community activist who helped organize the city's anti-casino movement, ran a distant third.

Jack Morley, a South Philadelphia businessman, ran unopposed for the Republican nomination.

Former city controller Joseph Vignola, who had been considering running as an independent against Dougherty, said last night he is unlikely to run against Farnese.

Farnese, the grandson of former Philadelphia School Board president Andrew Farnese, was a last-minute entry into the Senate race.

For nearly two years, he had planned to challenge state Rep. Babette Josephs in her Center City district. But in January, Farnese unexpectedly jumped into the Senate race.

Two months later, when Fumo dropped out of the contest, his top allies and supporters migrated immediately to the Farnese campaign, continuing to plot strategy against Dougherty.

Fumo himself never formally endorsed Farnese, but he helped arrange a group endorsement by two-thirds of the Democratic senators in Harrisburg.

The senators provided nearly $300,000 in campaign contributions, which Farnese plowed into hard-hitting cable-TV ads aimed at Dougherty's ties to a criminal investigation and strong criticism of the electricians union by the National Labor Relations Board.

Federal prosecutors in the U. S. Attorney's Office have been investigating Dougherty for several years and last year they indicted a long-time friend, electrical contractor Donald "Gus" Dougherty, for allegedly providing illegal payments to the union leader.

John Dougherty, 47, refused to discuss details of the federal probe.

Instead, Dougherty focused his campaign on his 15 years running Local 98, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, his community work in Pennsport, charitable activity throughout the city and endorsements from fellow labor leaders.

Until Election Day, Dougherty was considered a favorite. He was ahead in his own polls and his opponents', and he poured more than $1 million - unprecedented in a state Senate race - into television advertising, mailings and other expenses.

Once Fumo dropped out of the race, Dougherty convinced a majority of the district's Democratic ward leaders to deliver an endorsement.

But Farnese held down Dougherty's margin in several wards led by Fumo loyalists and successfully convinced Center City voters that they should back him, not Dicker, as the most likely candidate to stop Dougherty.

"We ran incredibly well in [Center City's] 5th ward and the 8th ward, and better than we expected in Fairmount," Farnese spokesman Brian Abernathy said last night. "John Dougherty wasn't nearly as strong as he thought. No matter how much money he had, he couldn't buy the votes."

Dougherty was gracious in defeat, congratulating Farnese and saying that he was pleased with his campaign.

"I wouldn't have run this campaign any other way, positive all the way," he said. "I had 6,000 volunteers today, and nobody even spilled a drink." *

Staff writers Stephanie Farr and Chris Brennan contributed to this report.