Tacoma mayor: Victoria Woodards leads Jim Merritt

TACOMA, Wash. – Army veteran and former city councilmember Victoria Woodards was leading architect Jim Merritt after the first round of ballots were counted in the Tacoma mayoral race Tuesday night.

Woodards was Merritt 52-48 percent, with 79,886 votes counted. The Pierce County Auditor's office said more results would be released Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.

Neither candidate was ready to declare a Woodards win quite yet, though both hinted at it.

"It wasn't easy, and it's not over yet," Woodards said at her campaign party.

"We were obviously hoping for different results," Merritt said. "Obviously we want the best for Tacoma. I'm looking forward to what happens the next few days, but I just want, hopefully, that we've challenged some things that can be looked at in the future.

The race grew contentious recently, as accusations of dishonesty flew between the camps.

Several important issues divide the candidates: How fast Sound Transit light rail can connect Tacoma to SeaTac; whether a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility should be built on the tide flats; whether the City is doing enough to attract and retain jobs (including bidding for Amazon’s HQ2).

"I told my story over and over again," Woodards said. "About being a little Tacoma girl who just wanted to do right by this city that had done so much by her."

Merritt and Woodards are vying to replace Mayor Marilyn Strickland, who is leaving office after reaching her term limit.