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Jose Hernandez's 'Astronaut' Title Challenged By Lawyers In California House Race

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Jose Hernandez, a former astronaut, is running for Congress in California's 10th district.
Jose Hernandez, a former astronaut, is running for Congress in California's 10th district.

A Sacramento law firm has filed a lawsuit challenging Democratic congressional candidate Jose Hernandez's use of the title "astronaut" on the ballot for his House race.

Hernandez, who is challenging freshman Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) to represent California's newly-drawn 10th district, is listed as an "astronaut/scientist/engineer" on the June primary ballot. He traveled as a crew member on the Discovery space shuttle in 2009 before leaving NASA in 2011.

The Fresno Bee reported that the law firm Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk filed the suit on Wednesday, asking a judge in the Sacramento County Superior Court to block Hernandez from using the astronaut title on the ballot on the grounds that "astronaut is not a title one carries for life."

Although Denham's campaign is not affiliated with the suit, the case is undeniably tied to the California GOP. Two of the firm's lawyers named on the suit are Charles Bell Jr., who served as general counsel to the state's Republican party, and Brian Hildreth, who worked for former Gov. Pete Wilson (R), according to the Bee. The firm has also previously done work for Denham's campaign committee, the paper reported.

Hernandez criticized the suit on Friday, stating that it was a distraction from the campaign's more pressing issues.

"The challenges our country is facing are far too important to waste any more time on petty partisan political games," he said.

The son of Mexican immigrants, Hernandez has made an impression on progressive Democrats for his strong support of the DREAM Act and advocacy for middle class families. His work with NASA is a central narrative in his campaign.

"I went from plowshares to the stars," Hernandez said in October upon announcing his campaign.

Independent Chad Condit, son of former Rep. Gary Condit (D-Calif.), has also announced plans to challenge Denham in the new district.

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