Karen Brown, the Democratic committeewoman recruited by Republican City Committee leaders to run for mayor, appeared yesterday to have won the GOP nomination as she moved out of reach of her primary opponent.

Brown now leads John Featherman by 58 votes.

A count of absentee, alternative and military ballots completed yesterday showed that Brown had taken in an additional 81 votes while Featherman picked up 80.

That added a single vote to the 57-vote margin Brown earned last week out of nearly 16,500 cast in the primary.

The Philadelphia City Commission yesterday said that 50 GOP provisional ballots remain to be counted in the race.

Featherman yesterday said that he was not ready to concede but acknowledged that his chances of winning were growing slim.

"If it's 50, I'm in trouble," he said of the provisional ballots. "If it's even close to 50, I'm in trouble."

On this, he and Brown finally found some consensus.

"Even if we split them, he's not going to catch me," Brown said of the ballots. "Even if he takes all 50, he's not going to catch me."

Provisional ballots are used on Election Day when questions are raised about whether a voter is properly registered or appearing at the correct polling place. The 50 provisional ballots still need to be checked to see if they're valid.

Brown was recruited to challenge Featherman, a real-estate agent who is part of a GOP faction known as the Loyal Opposition, which is attempting to seize control of the party in an effort to reinvigorate it in Philadelphia.

Brown, a retired Catholic- school teacher, emerged earlier this year as an unusual candidate, seeking as a Democrat both the City Council 1st District seat and an at-large Council seat.

She switched parties in March, saying that she was upset with Democrats for not backing her campaigns. At least 30 employees at the Philadelphia Parking Authority, the last stronghold of Republican patronage jobs in the city, quickly circulated the nominating petitions to help Brown land a spot on the primary ballot.

If Brown prevails and Featherman doesn't contest the election results, she will face Mayor Nutter in the Nov. 8 general election.