Jose Hernandez announced his run for Congress [last week] in the new 10th District (Modesto, Tracy, Turlock) and it will be hard to top the Democrat’s personal story.
No current member of Congress can say they went from picking strawberries in the fields to becoming an astronaut.
Born in French Camp, the 49-year-old Hernandez was the child of Mexican immigrant farm workers, and toiled in the fields himself from ages 9-15. Woke up at 4 a.m. to pick cucumbers, strawberries, peaches, pears, grapes on the weekends, and did it seven days a week in the summer. He didn’t learn to speak English fully until he was 12.
He studied at the University of the Pacific and became an electrical engineer. He worked for 14 years for the Lawrence Livermore Lab and for NASA in Houston, where entered its astronaut training program. In 2009, he flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery’s mission to the international space station.
About five months ago, the father of five started thinking about running for Congress. What put him over the top: At last month’s Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Awards– where he was an honoree, President Obama encouraged him to run and Hernandez said the First Lady promised to come to the district to campaign for him. “And I’m going to hold her to it,” he said.