SAN FRANCISCO – A Californian aiming to be the first representative of Hmong descent in the US Congress expressed strong support for Israel in an interview Thursday with The Jerusalem Post.

Democrat Blong Xiong is running in the newly formed 21st district that covers Fresno and Bakersfield, a region that is at least half Latino but also has many Jews. The primary will be held June 5 and the top-two finishers, regardless of party, will face off on November 6.

Blong said that, if elected, he would want to focus on foreign affairs and visit Israel. He expressed an affinity for the Jewish state and the Jewish people in Israel and the US.

“I have always admired Israel and its people,” he said. “They are a great story. My people were nomadic and went from country to country. When we came to the US, we looked at the success of the American Jewish community as a model.”

The Hmong people are from the hills of Southeast Asia.

They fought with the US in the Vietnam War, and were rewarded by being brought to the US, where they mostly settled in Fresno and Minneapolis. Blong came to the US at age five.

The candidate said that, based on his knowledge, he was not in a position to give Israel advice. But he said it was important to prevent Iran’s nuclearization.

“I support the US position that we must work diplomatically but keep all options available,” he said. “The case of North Korea shows we would be misguided to think only talks are the solution. It is important to do what is necessary to keep the world safe.”

Blong’s opponents in the race include Republican David Valadao, who is a first-term member of the California assembly, and Democrat John Hernandez.

Because the seat is a new one created by redistricting, both parties are taking the race very seriously.

Michael Fenenbock, a strategist for Blong, said his own Jewish heritage was one reason he decided to support him.

“He is pro-Israel, and Israel needs all the friends it can get,” Fenenbock said.

“Israel could especially use someone like Blong, who can carry a large banner for Israel to new populations in the US.”

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