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Review: ‘Kid Candidate’ shows politics isn’t a joke

Hayden Pedigo appears in the documentary "Kid Candidate."
Hayden Pedigo runs for the Amarillo City Council in the documentary “Kid Candidate.”
(Gunpowder & Sky)

Hayden Pedigo didn’t plan on running for a seat on the Amarillo City Council in 2019. As the amiable documentary “Kid Candidate” chronicles, Pedigo, then 24, decided to pursue politics after a lo-fi prank video went viral, prompting him to wonder what would actually happen if he made good on running for office. “Just don’t be an a—,” his wife, L’Hannah Pedigo, tells him at the outset. For the most part, he heeds her advice.

Amarillo attorney Jeff Blackburn calls Pedigo an “unwitting dupe who has no business — none — thinking he can do anything.” The documentary’s director, Jasmine Stodel, counters, citing Pedigo’s youth. “Fine,” Blackburn says. “Then let’s run a baby.”

But Blackburn becomes involved in Pedigo’s campaign, probably because it’s hard not to like this well-meaning young man, a working musician who wants his city’s residents to have their interests better represented but also finds the process of running for local office — knocking on doors, addressing audiences, expressing opinions — alternately inspiring and terrifying.

“Kid Candidate” clocks in at just over an hour, so it’s more of a sketch than a deep-dive. The documentary presents a portrait of entrenched city council members serving business interests, bolstered and controlled by a local political action committee, Amarillo Matters. Stark inequities are shown to exist, as they do everywhere in this country. “As soon as you cross the tracks, the color goes away — except on the Black faces,” Tremaine Brown, a restaurant owner, laments.

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Pedigo doesn’t have much of a platform and his talking points are a continuous work in progress. But he listens, and not simply because he wants votes (which, of course, he does). He seems to possess empathy and that quality, combined with his unwillingness to take any campaign donations, puts him a rung up from most politicians. He professes to be a Christian but, unlike incumbent council members, doesn’t spout pieties. (“This has to be something that the Lord willed,” one candidate says after he’s elected.)

The outcome of Pedigo’s ramshackle election bid is never much in doubt, though that doesn’t lessen the interest in watching his bid. “Kid Candidate” isn’t about winning as much as a reinforcement of the notion that apathy is the death of democracy, a lesson best learned, as Pedigo comes to understand, when you’re young.

'Kid Candidate'

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 8 minutes

Playing: Available July 2 on digital and VOD


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