By Steve Barnes
LITTLE ROCK Ark. (Reuters) - An Arkansas Republican official has resigned after telling a magazine former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would "probably get shot" if she returned to the state where she was a lawyer and served as first lady, officials said on Thursday.
Clinton, seen as the front runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, is set to return to Arkansas on Friday to sign copies of her new memoir. Her husband was the state's governor for 12 years before winning the White House in 1992.
Johnny Rhoda, who was chairman of the Republican Party in the Second Congressional District in Arkansas, was quoted in U.S. News this week as saying Clinton could not expect much political support in the state if she ran for president.
"She'd probably get shot at the state line," Rhoda, an insurance agent and the pastor of a small congregation about 70 miles (110 kms) north of the state capital, Little Rock, was quoted as saying by the magazine.
"Nobody has any affection for her. The majority don't," he was quoted as saying.
Rhoda complained that his remarks were taken out of context and were not intended to be threatening.
U.S. Representative Tim Griffin, a Republican who represents the district, labeled Rhoda's comments offensive and inappropriate and called for his resignation.
Doyle Webb, chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party, described Rhoda's comments as "an unnecessary distraction from the important issues before the state." On Thursday, Webb announced Rhoda's resignation in a statement to local TV broadcaster KARK.
Rhoda was not immediately available for further comment.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Paul Simao)