CHICAGO, NOV. 7 (WEDNESDAY) -- The Illinois governor's race, which lurched through 15 months and $20 million worth of negative campaigning, partisan wrangling and squabbling over which candidate was more believable on taxes, showcased the best and the worst of 1990 state politics.

Voters said they were sick of negative campaigning, and many -- especially in Chicago and its suburbs -- simply stayed home. They said they were unhappy with incumbents but returned most of them, including Sen. Paul Simon (D), to office. And they said they were angry about taxes and worried about the economy but did not know who to trust.

Early this morning, Republican Jim Edgar appeared to have won the governorship from Democrat Neil F. Hartigan. With 94 percent of precincts reporting, Edgar had a lead of more than 80,000 votes.

Edgar and Hartigan turned the state's conventional political wisdom on its ear by poaching effectively on each other's traditional turf. Hartigan voters in Chicago stayed home, contributing to the city's worst-ever voter turnout for a nonpresidential election year.

Edgar, who is from downstate, however, polled about one-quarter of the traditionally Democratic black vote but failed to do as well as expected in normally Republican strongholds downstate.

Simon, who easily defeated Rep. Lynn Martin (R), felt none of the predicted ill effects of his incumbency or disaffection in traditionally Democratic areas, winning 91 percent of the black vote and two-thirds of the female vote.

Simon, in his victory speech Tuesday night, thanked both his supporters and, to cheers and laughter, GOP media consultant Roger Ailes, who masterminded Martin's negative campaign. Martin, in her concession speech, appealed to the disenchanted to vote again in the next election.

The next governor will succeed 14-year incumbent James R. Thompson (R), who chose not to seek reelection. Even Thompson expressed misgivings about the negative tone of the campaign and conceded that the results were not rolling in as expected. "This whole campaign's been backward," he said.

In Chicago, it remained unclear how formidable the upstart Harold Washington Party might be. Although none of its Cook County candidates won, at least two of the Democrats named on the independent party's "enemies list" distributed to voters -- incumbent state's attorney Cecil Partee and Hartigan -- were defeated. Partee, who succeed Mayor Richard M. Daley as state's attorney, was booed at an Operation PUSH candidates' forum last weekend.

Lu Palmer, a longtime civic activist who founded the city's Black Independent Political Organization, predicted that the Harold Washington Party, named after the late mayor, would "make a good showing we can build on and in time become a real force in Chicago politics."

Palmer and other community leaders had called for the defeat of elected officials who had failed to support a black candidate against Daley.

The Harold Washington Party's presence on the ticket, however, appeared to provide as much confusion as inspiration for many voters. Election officials reported that only 53 percent of the city's registered voters bothered to cast a ballot, a record low for an off-year election. Statewide, election officials predicted a healthier 59 percent turnout of those registered.

In addition to determining the occupants of the governor's office and the U.S. Senate seat, Illinois voters chose 22 congressional representatives, 138 state senators and representatives, three state Supreme Court justices and a host of other statewide and county officers.

Voters, who expressed disgust about the Senate and gubernatorial races in interviews at polling places Tuesday, also indicated they had been paying close attention to the volleys lobbed by the candidates. Tom Glen, 41, a nurse from Evanston, expressed what appeared to be a common concern about Hartigan, who he said is "nothing more than an old machine-type Democrat."

In his advertising, Edgar had raised questions about Hartigan's credibility. Voters in earlier statewide polls had said they did not believe Hartigan's pledge to roll back a state income tax surcharge.

Hartigan's advertising hammered at Edgar's willingness to keep the state income tax surcharge in place and questioned the way Edgar spent state funds while he served as state treasurer by airing a spot that challenged a $275,000 expenditure for a garden at the governor's mansion.

"That money could have gone to better use," said Andrew Napoleon, a 65-year-old retired salesman who voted for Hartigan in suburban Skokie today and said he had seen the ad.

Martin, too, may have been harmed by her harsh television attacks on Simon, who is generally popular here. "Her abrasiveness stopped me from even listening," said Sandy Rubin, a 31-year-old Skokie mother who voted for Simon.

Martin, sounding conciliatory, acknowledged late Monday that the campaign's negative cast may have hurt more than helped, saying in one television interview that if the negative campaigning is all that is remembered from the 1990 campaign, "hope will have dissipated" among voters.

The airwaves were so clogged with political advertising during the campaign's final days that it was not unusual to see a half-dozen different ads running back-to-back on Chicago-area television stations.

At the polls Tuesday voters continued to express disgust and confusion over their choices this year and at the 16-page booklet of small print that accompanied Cook County ballots.

"I don't think there was enough emphasis put on anything," Morris Johnson, 65, said of the campaign. A black retiree who said he voted the straight Democratic ticket in his South Side precinct, Johnson said he rejected the Harold Washington Party candidates because the late mayor would himself never have supported an all-black slate.

"We, like fools, are running up there and figthing each other," Johnson said. "We don't have enough equity {in the system} to do that."

Special correspondent Lauren Ina contributed to this report.