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RALEIGH | Twenty-six North Carolina legislators, including 21 of the state chambers’ 29 black members, sat out a vote Tuesday on a resolution honoring the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, showing that the Republican remains a polarizing figure a year after his death.

The state legislature approves dozens of honorary resolutions each two-year session, and the body’s bill drafting director, Gerry Cohen, said he could remember none of the others being avoided by so many lawmakers in his three-decade career.

The Senate voted 41-1 for the Helms resolution, and the House 98-0. The only dissenting vote was Sen. Julia Boseman, New Hanover Democrat and the legislature’s first openly gay member.

None of about a dozen House members seated outside the chamber during the vote would say whether the effort was coordinated, but it was clear the absences were on purpose. “I could have never voted in favor of a resolution honoring Senator Helms because of his divisive history and his anti-civil-rights principles,” said Sen. Floyd McKissick, Durham Democrat.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.