They were all Norton supporters last month.

Many waver now. And some have deserted her.

The tax problems of Eleanor Holmes Norton were slowly seeping into living rooms more attuned to the Redskins' home opener yesterday, so slowly that many of 20 District residents contacted at home were unaware of weekend revelations that Norton and her husband had failed to file D.C. income tax returns for the past seven years.

That lack of knowledge among the electorate might help Norton in tomorrow's primary, in which she is one of five candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for D.C. delegate to Congress.

But among the 20, all of whom had told pollsters for The Washington Post in August that they supported her campaign, many said they were confused, shaken and even disgusted as they learned more about the controversy on their own or from a reporter. Norton, the favorite of 31 percent of those polled last month, far more than any other contender, no longer has the solid support of at least some of those voters.

"I'm really reconsidering it. I will think about it a lot," said Jewell Dassance, 56, a Capitol Hill resident who works in education. "I think she has a wonderful record and think she's very skilled and experienced, but I also want people who are clean."

"I wouldn't vote for her in a million years," said Richard Feinberg, 67, a physician who lives in the Barnaby Woods neighborhood near Chevy Chase Circle, who added he had just been speaking with a neighbor who had declared he and his wife are no longer voting for Norton either.

Norton, a lawyer who teaches at Georgetown University Law Center, said in a statement Saturday evening that her husband, Edward, also a lawyer, had always handled the family finances and that she was unaware he was not filing their tax returns. His failure, she said, stemmed from "procrastination" and an alleged dispute with the District government over an amount owed.

All of the 20 interviewed yesterday seemed to compare their family practices with Norton's explanation, with some finding it plausible that a husband could keep so much from a wife and others not.

"I guess I can understand where one of the members handles the financial matters, but in my household my wife always follows up with me to make sure it's taken care of," said Michael Sherman, 36, a banker who lives in Ward 5. "I can see goofing up one year, but it's flagrant now."

Sherman, who said he is now worried about how effective Norton would be in dealing with Congress, said his support for her is "floundering" because, "let's face it, if someone doesn't take care of their personal business, how can they take care of mine?"

He added that besides filing tax returns, "maybe she ought to file for divorce too."

Tony Crosby, 21, a student at George Washington University who lives in Northeast, said he could understand that Norton let her husband take care of finances, "but when you enter into a political race, you should make sure your finances, and everything that's going to be a public issue, should be taken care of. I think it's kind of careless of her to run without checking."

But some Norton supporters stood by her, accepting the explanation that her husband hadn't told her about any problems or dismissing the issue entirely as insignificant.

Drawing a link to former U.S. representative Geraldine A. Ferraro of New York, the 1984 Democratic vice presidential candidate whose husband was investigated for real estate fraud, Patricia Floyd said she would "rather give her {Norton} the benefit of the doubt than accuse her of doing something that could have been a mistake."

"I think that we all know that in any relationship, sometimes they don't know what each other is doing," said Floyd, 47, an administrative assistant who lives in Northeast.

Eunice Tate, 42, a secretary who lives in the Petworth neighborhood, said she is sympathetic to anyone who has tax problems with the District, "seeing as I'm almost in the same boat myself."

Tate said she is involved in an ongoing dispute with the city over taxes because "they don't do things right. I just don't know what to say about them."

And Agnes Jacobs, 55, a domestic worker who lives in Ward 1, said Norton's problem "wouldn't make a difference to me" because "there are worse things than that, not paying taxes."