"I stand here as a candidate for congress with a new mission: to make sure that mine is not the last generation that can claim their American dream," Hernandez said.
Hernandez, 49, grew up in the Central Valley, the son of migrant farm workers. He didn't speak fluent English until the age of 12. But Hernandez went on to become an engineer at the Lawrence Livermore Lab before joining NASA. In 2009, he flew on the Shuttle Discovery for a two-week mission to the International Space Station.
"He completed his dream, now he's got another dream," Hernandez's father Salvador said.
As a candidate, Hernandez will face Republican incumbent Jeff Denham, who now represents District 19. Denham chose not comment for this story, but Republicans released a statement likening Hernandez to President Obama, who they consider weak on the economy and job creation.
"I keep reading about the companies in Silicon Valley that are doing business overseas in India and I'm saying why can't we create a situation where all they have to do is drive 90 minutes over the Altamont and set up shop over here?" Hernandez said.
Another candidate, Democrat Mike Barkley admires the former astronaut, but thinks he's short on specifics and experience.
"Of course he did travel around the world 5.7 million more times than I did because he did it in the space shuttle, but then again I've traveled around the sun 4.8 million miles more than he has," Barkley said.
Barkley, Hernandez and Denham will face off in a June primary. The top two will move on to next November's general election.