building jesse helms naming controversy - | WBTV Charlotte

Controversy over proposal to name federal building after Senator Jesse Helms


More than four years after his passing, the legacy of North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms remains polarizing.

Former Mecklenburg County Democratic Party Chair David Erdman says it is no surprise people remember many of the senator's unpopular stands.

"I was working on capitol hill was in his first year in the U.S. Senate," Erdman said. "He created a lot of the type of politics that we wish hadn't gone so far today."

It is those wedge issues that have unleashed a firestorm of comments left by more than three thousand people who have signed an online petition to name a federal building after Helms in Raleigh.

Political strategist Larry Shaheen sees the validity of naming the building in his honor.

He said, "There are some folks who are upset, but there's an immense amount of good that Senator Helms was able to do over a large amount of years."

Controversial stands like campaign advertisements against former Mayor Harvey Gantt are hard to shake.

 "The question for North Carolinians is remembering the heritage and remembering the history," Shaheen said.

However, when it comes to Helms how will he be judged by those on the hill?

Erdman said, "There is precedent in naming for Federal facilities after U.S. senators, but it's up to some arm of the government."

The legislation is being introduced by North Carolina congresswoman Renee Ellmers.

A spokesman from her office said the bill is still in committee.

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