Mayor Tom Bradley got a scare in his bid for a record fifth term as chief executive of the nation's second largest city, narrowly avoiding a runoff election.

With 2,341 of the city's 2,353 precincts reporting at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, Bradley had 153,762 votes - 51.98 percent of the total. He needed 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a June 6 runoff in the non-partisan election. City Councilman Nate Holden had 83,036 votes - or 28 percent, and former county Supervisor Baxter Ward received 44,816 votes, or 15 percent.Obscure candidates, including a socialist oil field worker and a singer-dancer, shared the remaining votes.

Saying the election had taught him, "Never take anything for granted," Bradley told cheering supporters, "In all candor I have to tell you, I made a mistake during the campaign. I didn't wage the kind of vigorous, all-out effort that I could have, or should have. But tonight I pledge this, during the next four years, I will be a vigorous, all-out mayor."

Holden, who like Bradley is black, put up a tough fight in an effort to force a runoff, despite odds that discouraged most other potential candidates from even challenging the popular 71-year-old son of Texas sharecroppers.

Bradley's narrow victory - he won his fourth term by a record margin - was blamed partly on a low voter turnout, put unofficially at only about 20 percent of the city's 1.9 million registered voters.

City Council President John Ferraro, an unsuccessful mayoral candidate in 1985, said Bradley's narrow victory this year would weaken the mayor in the eyes of the public, but not much at City Hall.

"I don't think it would affect the way he operates because he's really not a hands-on (mayor)," Ferraro said. "He doesn't try to force the council to do this or that."

Throughout his campaign, Holden repeatedly blamed Bradley for the city's crime, traffic congestion and air pollution, and said the mayor "ignored the people" in refusing to debate his opponents.

Bradley, a Democrat who made two unsuccessful bids for governor, had a $2 million campaign war chest and tirelessly maintained an active campaign schedule, visiting churches, schools and community groups. But he steadfastly refused to acknowledge his opponents or agree to meet them in face-to-face debate.

A former city police lieutenant, Bradley boasted of his record of support for the Police Department.

But despite pledges to fight crime, Bradley's critics noted that he on several occasions killed efforts to increase the number of officers.