- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday he disagrees with Donald Trump’s controversial comments regarding immigrants, but says the businessman and presidential hopeful is still welcome at the state GOP’s fundraiser this weekend.

The Republican governor said he hoped Trump’s appearance at the party’s Reagan-Rockefeller dinner would be the first of many by White House hopefuls. Trump is headlining the fundraiser in Hot Springs on Friday night.

Since launching his presidential bid last month, Trump has been criticized and lost business partnerships with companies such as Macy’s and Univision for calling immigrants arriving illegally from Mexico “criminals” and “rapists.”

“Clearly I don’t agree with the comments Donald Trump has made in recent weeks, but he’s entitled to have a venue to court the vote here in Arkansas and I hope that many other candidates will come here as well,” Hutchinson told reporters after an unrelated news conference in Little Rock.

Trump’s comments have raised concerns among some Republicans that it will hurt efforts to gain support among Hispanic voters. Hutchinson said he believed it was important for the party to send a welcoming message to the Hispanic community.

“We in Arkansas certainly want to have a strong outreach to the Hispanic community and make them part of our economic growth in this state as well as our political climate in this state,” Hutchinson said. “So we want to make sure we send the right signals that the party is open to Hispanic communities and we want to grow with them.”

Hutchinson, who took office in January, is backing former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s presidential bid and appeared at his campaign kickoff in May. Hutchinson’s office said he planned to attend the fundraiser.

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