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Former astronaut runs for new 10th District seat against Denham

POSTED October 14, 2011 6:39 p.m.


Jose Hernandez, a former NASA astronaut, announced Tuesday he will seek the Democratic nomination to face incumbent Freshman U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R) in the 2012 congressional election.

Hernandez, a French Camp native, grew up the son of migrant farm workers, unable to speak English fluently until age 12. Through hard work, he says, he was able to achieve his American dream – becoming a NASA astronaut who flew to the International Space Station aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2009.

“I stand here as a candidate for Congress with a new mission: to help make sure that mine is not the last generation that can claim their American dreams,” Hernandez said.

Along the way, Hernandez studied electrical engineering at the University of the Pacific, completed graduate school, and helped develop the first full-field digital mammography imaging system while working at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  He went on to work for NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston before being accepted into the astronaut training program in 2004.

Currently, Hernandez is the only Democratic candidate for the post. He will move back to the Central Valley from Houston to compete in the election.

The 2012 election will see Denham defending a different district seat than he claimed in 2010, due to redistricting. The 19th District, which contains western Stanislaus County, Tuolumne County, Mariposa County, Madera County, and parts of Fresno County including Fresno, will be replaced by the 10th District, which contains all of Stanislaus County and southern San Joaquin County.

The boundary change pushes what was once a heavily Republican district into a more evenly split distribution. The new district also is one-quarter Latino.

If elected Hernandez said the entire district could rely on him to “do his job,” to put service above ideology, and to put the economy above partisanship.

 “My promise if you elect me is simple and clear: I will serve your interests, regardless of party, regardless of where you are on the ladder, regardless of who you know,” Hernandez said. “When I am your Congressman, I will only owe you. You have my word.”

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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