Senator Jake Knotts has a soft spot in his heart for collards.
Not simply because it’s the state’s number one vegetable and produced in his district, but because a nine-year-old girl in Lexington wrote him a letter asking that the Legislature consider making the collard the official state vegetable. Her father works for Rawl Farms in Lexington County, where they grow the leafy-green vegetable, among many others. South Carolina produces almost a quarter of U.S. collards greens.
She did her homework, she lobbied, says Knotts, wrote every legislator and tried to appear at a subcommittee meeting. It was cancelled. And so, says Knotts, Mary Grace Wingard learned about the political process.
“She’s a smart young girl and I’m sort of glad that she got a taste of it, ” says Knotts. AUDIO: Knotts describes Wingard’s tenacity
And what followed became true politics. The Senate was ridiculed for passing this bill, while it filibustered and fought over others that an angry electorate wanted passed.
The Twittersphere went crazy: Collards, they asked. Really?
So the Senate passed a bill by Sen. Harvey Peeler to stop any further recognition of state “whatevers”- at the protest of Jake Knotts.
The legislative end of future “state whatevers” passed, and the Senate moved on.
But the collard bill did pass the House Thursday while Wingard and her father watched from the balcony. And it is now standing by to be signed into law. It is unclear if Haley will sign it, but Mary Grace Wingard undertook the whole process, her family says, because the governor told her Rocky Creek Elementary class that they should find a way to get involved.
That is why Sen. Knotts made the Senate give the little girl with the collard green idea an ovation today. He says in the symbolic back and forth, they lost sight of the tenacity it took for a little girl to get involved in the process.