In the Netflix comedy “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Ellie Kemper plays Schmidt, a 29-year-old Indiana woman who’s spent 15 years trapped in a doomsday cult.
Imprisoned as a teenager, when finally freed in the show’s first episode Schmidt emerges from the underground bunker where she’s spent half her life not defeated, but with a defiant smile and sense of wide-eyed buoyancy — ready to take on the world.
Tacoma City Council member Anders Ibsen is also 29 and is also known for his unflinching smile and sense of perpetual optimism. During his first four years on the council he’s displayed an equal willingness to take on the world with a far-off gleam in his eye and bounce in his step.
As the lead character in a goofy comedy, we understand from the show’s premise that Kimmy Schmidt’s spirit is unbreakable.
However, as one of the youngest members of the City Council in Tacoma’s history, and with a penchant for staking out some of the most progressive stances on the nine-member governing body, just how Ibsen seems to have become unchallengeable might be a more interesting plotline.
Certainly, uncontested races on the City Council are far from unheard of. Ryan Mello, for instance, also looks poised to go unchallenged in his attempt to hold down the at-large Position 8.
But there’s something different about Ibsen’s reign.
Over the past four years, no council member has managed to ruffle as many establishment feathers as Ibsen has, whether it was his stance on paid sick and safe leave or his declaration that he planned to vote in favor of Tacoma’s 15 Now minimum wage initiative. (Now that Tacoma has taken up the issue and created a Minimum Wage Task Force, Ibsen says he’s inclined to support a compromise, provided it’s one he’s comfortable with.)
Sure, the incumbent holds an advantage in just about any political showdown, but if there’s one council member who is prime for a challenge this year it has to be Ibsen.
Not that I think he’s been bad for Tacoma, mind you — actually, I think his voice has been a needed one on the far too homogeneous council. But the stances he’s taken create an obvious opening for a Chamber of Commerce-backed challenge.
So far, no such challenge has materialized.
And, to make things more interesting, two contestants for the at-large Position 7, Conor McCarthy and John Hines, live in Ibsen’s neighborhood. A third at-large candidate, Joe Lopez — who briefly filled in for Ibsen last year during a leave of absence to attend training for the Marine Corps Reserve — also lives in the 1st District, though he has since dropped out of the race.
Both McCarthy and Hines tell me the appeal of an open at-large seat and the chance to represent the entire city are behind their respective decisions. I’m sure they’re telling the truth.
Still, the fact remains that no one seems to want a piece of Ibsen, and that’s by design. If there’s an art to running unopposed, Ibsen may have mastered it.
Ibsen reports to have knocked on more than 20,000 doors during his first campaign in 2011, walking his district four times over. This year — even without a challenger — Ibsen says he’s hit “slightly over 4,000” doors.
There’s an intimidation factor here.
Then there’s the money. Ibsen announced his candidacy early, and — to date — has raised more money than any other council candidate, with just over $38,000 at last check of Public Disclosure Commission filings. It’s a total bolstered from contributions by a list of diverse players such as Point Ruston developers Loren and Mike Cohen, and unions like SEIU 775, UFCW Local 21 and UFCW Local 367.
Of Ibsen’s 216 donations, 71 have come from individuals and are $50 or less.
“Campaigning is simple. It’s about being clear about what you stand for,” Ibsen explains of his game plan.
“Ultimately, voters like effort.”
Thanks in no small part to Kimmy Schmidt’s indomitable spirit, Netflix was quick to pick up “Unbreakable” for two full seasons. Based on the show’s critical acclaim, the decision looks like a wise one.
Barring an unforeseen challenger as we head into candidate filing week, the chances of Anders Ibsen securing another four years in office come November look equally certain.