“I was born with a household name and a real opportunity. I hope I did both, ”said du Pont when he announced his long-term presidency offer in September 1986.
As a presidential candidate, du Pont drew attention to himself for dropping controversial positions on what he hoped would resonate with voters as “damn right” issues. These included random drug testing for students, school vouchers, replacing social benefits with work, ending farm subsidies, and allowing workers to invest in individual retirement accounts as an alternative to social security.
Some of these ideas have now become more mainstream.
It won recognition from New Hampshire’s largest newspaper but failed to win through with voters. He ended his campaign after finishing penultimate in the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary.
After that, du Pont remained involved in politics. He was a frequent contributor to opinion pieces for publications such as the Wall Street Journal and was a co-founder of the online magazine IntellectualCapital.com. He has also served as chairman of the Hudson Institute, the National Review Institute, and the National Center for Policy Analysis, a non-partisan public policy research organization.
Pierre du Pont IV was born in Delaware on January 22, 1935. After attending the Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, he completed his engineering degree at Princeton University in 1956. After a four-year stint in the Navy, he received a law degree from Harvard University in 1963.
He joined the Du Pont Company where he held various positions and resigned as quality control supervisor in 1968 to begin his political career.
After running freely for a seat in the State House in 1968, he immediately turned his attention to Congress, running as a financial conservative, and winning the first of three terms in 1970.
Du Pont was elected governor in 1976 and successfully fought to restore the financial integrity of a state that he had declared “bankrupt” shortly after his inauguration. He directed two income tax cuts; Constitutional amendments that curb government spending and require three-fifths of the votes in lawmakers to collect taxes; and set up an independent sales forecasting panel.
After a difficult start with Democratic lawmakers, including an embarrassing overwriting of a 1977 budget vow, du Pont forged successful relationships with lawmakers on both parties to address delicate issues such as prison overcrowding, corruption and school disregard. He was re-elected in a landslide in 1980, won a record 71 percent of the vote, and became the first two-term governor in Delaware in 20 years.
In his second term, du Pont signed landmark laws that relaxed Delaware banking laws, including removing the interest rate cap banks could charge their customers. The Financial Center Development Act made Delaware a haven for some of the largest credit card companies in the country.
Under the leadership of du Pont, Delaware also established a non-profit employment counseling and placement program for high school graduates in Delaware who are not affiliated with a college. It served as a model for a national program that was adopted by several other states.
Du Pont was forbidden by law from seeking a third term and briefly withdrew into the private sector. In 1985 he joined a law firm in Wilmington. A year and a half later, he announced his offer for the GOP President nomination and became the first declared candidate in the 1988 campaign.
During an appearance at the Hotel du Pont in downtown Wilmington, where du Pont announced he was leaving his presidential campaign, he praised an electoral process that shot a former governor of a small state with unorthodox ideas in the White House.
“You gave me the unique opportunity. You listened, you thought and you voted. I couldn’t have asked for more,” said du Pont. “Because in America we promise not that everyone wins, but that everyone has the chance get to try. “
Du Pont is survived by his wife of over 60, the former Elise R. Wood; a daughter and three sons; and 10 grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at a later date due to the coronavirus pandemic, Perkins said.