Tacoma architect Jim Merritt and Councilmember Victoria Woodards still lead the Tacoma mayoral race after a third round of returns were released on Thursday.

Early results show Merritt leading with 39 percent, followed by Woodards with 37 percent, and Washington Public Disclosure Commission Evelyn Lopez with 24 percent.

It’s a three-way race, where incumbent Marilyn Strickland is term limited. Merritt also ran for mayor in 2009.

"It's overwhelming. It's very exciting," said Merritt, "I have a great team."

Merritt said Tacoma needs to change the culture of government and he wants to create an open-door policy at City Hall.

"So we really can respect each citizen’s needs," said Merritt.

Minutes after results were posted, Woodard hugged supporters at Allenmore Golf Club.

"We made it," she said.

Woodards said the key to victory in November will be getting young voters to show up.

"We’re going to work hard to earn their vote," said Woodards.

While the candidates have their differences, both agree creating jobs in Tacoma would be their top priority as mayor.

Environmental issues have also become a central theme in this race, in large part due to a proposal to build a liquid natural gas plant on the Tacoma waterfront.

Strickland has served as Tacoma's mayor since 2010.