Congressional candidate is an astronaut on ballot, judge says
Judge Lloyd Connelly rejected Republican arguments that Hernandez did not work as an astronaut in the year before filing his candidacy and cannot list "astronaut/scientist/engineer" on the ballot as his occupation.
He said Hernandez is an astronaut for “more than the time spent riding a rocket.”
Hernandez left his job at NASA in January 2011, then worked at a technology company until October. He is running against Rep. Jeff Denham in the 10th Congressional District in the Central Valley. Chad Condit, son of former Rep. Gary Condit, is also running as an independent.
“I am glad that common sense prevailed and we were able to defeat this lawsuit and get back to talking about real issues,” Hernandez said in a statement.
Denham has not commented on the lawsuit, which was filed by a pastor in the district. But the law firm handling the case has ties to Denham and the California Republican Party, which issued a statement criticizing the judge's ruling Thursday.
“Allowing a candidate out of nowhere to use the profession of ‘astronaut’ when he hasn’t served in that profession recently, is akin to allowing someone to use a title of ‘sailor’ when they no longer own or operate a ship,” spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns said in a statement.
Because voters rarely know much about the candidates they choose, just a word or two on the ballot can be an important factor, said political consultants on both sides of the aisle. Hernandez has never run for elected office before, and he is campaigning in part on the strength of his biography: He worked alongside his family as a migrant farmer and eventually joined NASA. He flew into space on a 2009 shuttle mission to the International Space Station.
Hernandez’s campaign has used the lawsuit as an opportunity to emphasize his experience in space, and the day before Thursday’s hearing it released a YouTube video with scenes of the candidate floating in zero gravity.
PHOTO: Jose Hernandez, left, in 2009 before his space shuttle mission. CREDIT: Justin Dernier / European Pressphoto Agency
-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento