- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Virginia lawmakers are trying to score points with constituents by designating special days for two minority communities and fans of NASCAR.

Lawmakers have proposed three resolutions, two of which praise Korean-American and Indian-American communities for their “invaluable contributions” to the state. The third resolution honors NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Sr. for bringing “joy and motivation to his many fans through the world through his phenomenal accomplishments as a Winston Cup champion.” Mr. Earnhardt died in 2001.

The symbolic gestures are a part of a time-honored tradition in which lawmakers use their power to, among other things, set aside days to pay tribute to someone or something to please residents throughout Virginia, whether it be a dry cleaner in Fairfax County or the stock-car lover in Danville.

Such gestures often work, giving elected leaders a simpler way to relate to their constituents, instead of explaining the ins and outs of the state’s complicated formula for doling out money for transportation.

“We have a lot of fans who love NASCAR racing,” said Delegate Danny Marshall III, Danville Republican and sponsor of the Earnhardt resolution. “This was a home run back home. People respect [Mr. Earnhardt]. He is a legend.”

Mike Smith, public-relations director at the Martinsville Speedway, said honoring Mr. Earnhardt, who died in a crash at the Daytona 500, plays well in the region because the seven-time Winston Cup champion maintains a mythic, Elvis Presley-like status among local race fans who still sport his hats and slap his stickers on their cars.

…”It means more than were the day to be named for a regional politician or a national civic leader,” Mr. Smith said. “People at least in this part of the world had a true connection to Dale Earnhardt … . He still is always No. 1 or No. 2 for souvenir sales in our sport — He is truly the Elvis of the sport.”

Symbolic resolutions can test people’s political impulses, too.

“A delegate from Northern Virginia said she would not sign up [to support the Earnhardt resolution] because it would cost her votes back home,” Mr. Marshall said, then laughed.

In Northern Virginia, the Korean-American and Indian-American resolutions reflect a renewed effort in the state’s Republican Party to connect with growing ethnic groups that are showing more political clout.

“Virginia remains a magnet for people from other states … and other countries,” Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, recently told a crowd in Richmond. “And that represents a great opportunity to grow our party. When a Guatemalan who has come here legally and complied with our laws while working in his chosen field becomes a new citizen, and a software engineer from India becomes a new citizen, we’ll welcome them to Virginia and to our Republican Party.”

The Korean-American resolution compliments the contributions the group has made “in all aspects of American life, notably succeeding in the fields of medicine, business, engineering, architecture, athletics, and the arts.”

The Indian-American proposal is similar.

“Indian-Americans have embodied the American ideals of hard work, entrepreneurship and creativity, which enriches the prosperity and culture of Virginia and the nation,” the resolution states.

Delegate David B. Albo, who supports the Korean-American and Indian-American resolutions, said lawmakers want to make sure these groups “know they are appreciated.”

“A friend of mine said the Italians have Columbus Day and the Irish have St. Patrick’s Day, but we don’t have anything,” the Fairfax County Republican said. “I thought, good point.”

If approved, the legislation would designate Jan. 13 as Korean-American Day, Jan. 26 as Indian-American Day and April 29 as Dale Earnhardt Day.

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