Citing the Senate's handling of sexual harassment charges against Judge Clarence Thomas, Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman of New York City yesterday tossed her hat into the ring for the 1992 senatorial race.

"The events in the U.S. Senate over the past week and a half were the last straw for me," Ms. Holtzman said in a statement yesterday. "I saw a Senate that was not representative of the american people, a Senate with only two women and no African-Americans or Latinos, a Senate dramatically out of touch with the concerns and needs of New Yorkers."

Over the last few months, Ms. Holtzman made no secret of her plans to challenge incumbent Sen. Alfonse D'Amato. The Long Island Republican, who became senator in 1980 by defeating Ms. Holtzman, has been the subject of federal and Senate investigations.

The state's other Senator is Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat up for election in 1994.

Ms. Holtzman brings to four the number of candidates expected to compete in the Democrats' senatorial primary. The other candidates are state Attorney General Robert Abrams, former Rep. Geraldine A. Ferrano of Queens, and Rep. Robert Mrazek of Long Island.

A number of observers have said that Ms. Holtzman, a former Brooklyn district attorney who won the comptroller's post in November 1989, saw the post of city comptroller as a stepping stone for a return to Washington, D.C., where she served as a congresswoman in the 1970s.

As city comptroller, Ms. Holtzman has vocal criticized a number of the city's budget and financing proposals. And while the new city charter has curtailed some of the comptroller's powers, Ms. Holtzman has certainly maximized the powers she retains. For example, she has taken full advantage of her office's fiscal oversight authority to comment on the city's budget and finances, becoming one of Mayor David N. Dinkins strongest critics on some fiscal matters.

But yesterday, Senate hearings and not fiscal juggling were Ms. Holtzman's topic.

"As I thought about those hearings, I was convinced that I had to act and act now," she said.

"That is why I have decided to run for the U.S. Senate. I will make my formal announcement early next year," she added.

The Senate riveted national attention and attracted widespread criticism after public pressure forced televised hearings into charges that Judge Thomas, a Supreme Court nominee, had sexually harassed a subordinate. Sen. D'Amato sided with the judge in the sharply divided Senate confirmation vote that followed.

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