Three candidates vie to become Tacoma's next mayor

TACOMA -- The race for Tacoma mayor is coming down to three candidates.

Compared to Seattle's mayoral race, it's pretty tame. But the candidates know that the outcome is vital with Tacoma's reach going far beyond just the city. They believe Tacoma could be the economic engine for all of Southwest Washington.

The candidates are attorney Evelyn Lopez, architect Jim Merritt and former Tacoma City Council member Victoria Woodards.

Q13 News met all three candidates at a location of their choosing, a place they are passionate about.

Lopez chose to meet at Fireman’s Park overlooking Port of Tacoma and Commencement Bay.

“I think it`s an excellent place to talk about what works in Tacoma, what really needs to change,” Lopez said.

She pointed to the fuel plants she wants to change.

“Clean energy is very important to me and I think it's very important for the future of Tacoma because we are seeing rapid changes in the industry right now; 30, 40 years from now we don't know if gasoline will be as significant as a fuel source,” Lopez said.

Lopez also has a problem with current immigration policies, specifically with the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma where undocumented immigrants are taken for deportation proceedings.

“If I could shut it down, I would shut it down, but the main thing I can do is make sure they are in compliance with every city code, every state law,” Lopez said.

After the park, we headed to a transit hub, the Tacoma Dome Station, where Merritt chose to meet.  Merritt says he helped design portions of the transit station.

“Transportation is very important to me. A lot of my career, as an architect and urban designer, is working with transportation infrastructure. I've worked with the transit authority and Sound Transit,” Merritt said.

Merritt supports the light rail expansion into Tacoma but wants it to go faster.

“It's a matter of how they bond the project, I want to make sure link, light rail gets (from Tacoma) to the Seattle-Tacoma Airport not in 13 to 15 years but in 5 because to me it's all about Tacoma,” Merritt said.

He says Tacoma is experiencing an affordability crisis.

“As mayor, I will get family wage jobs growing in Tacoma so we can have a growing tax base so 40% of our workers don't have to leave the city for work,” Merritt said.

Affordability is a subject Victoria Woodards also cares about.

“We have large group of our population who are underemployed people like in this very neighborhood who get up and go to work every single day but they don`t make enough,” Woodards said.

Woodards met us in the Hilltop neighborhood, a place that has seen a significant transformation during her time on the City Council.

“At one point, at the corner over there, as a little girl I caught the bus to junior high school and it was a very scary place to be, now it`s a place where people want to be,” Woodards said.

She added that she wants to revitalize neighborhoods without displacing the residents and she wants people to feel safe.

“When they dial 911, that they get the answer that's commensurate with the call they make; I want to decrease wait times,” Woodards said.

She added that means more resources for police and fire.

Only two of the three candidates will make it pass the primary election on August 1.

On a lighter note, we asked all the candidates about the one thing many people may not know about them.

“Out of high school, I joined the U.S. Army so I can take apart an M-16 and put it back together,” Woodards said.

“I still play basketball at the Y, although it's with the 20 and 30 year olds; they still let me play,” Merritt said.

“I am a huge Bruce Springsteen fan; I got my first album from a friend when I was 17 years old,” Lopez said.

All three different personalities -- but the one thing they have in common is their love of Tacoma.