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Rep. Conaway spars with members during town hall meeting in Brownwood

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BROWNWOOD, Texas - Congressman Mike Conaway of District 11 took part in a contentious town hall meeting in Brownwood on Wednesday at the Brownwood Chamber of Commerce.

Conaway's office didn't announce the town hall until Wednesday morning. His staff tells KTXS it was a miscommunication on their part.

"We live in a much more politicized environment," Conaway told KTXS before addressing his constituents. "Maybe that ebbs and flows. In time, we'll see."

He gave a brief opening speech before taking questions from the audience. Two audience members called Conaway out for statements he made in January.

Conaway told the Dallas Morning News that allegations of Russians meddling in the election are similar to Democrats bringing in Mexican soap opera stars with them on the campaign trail.

He apologized for the comments.

Another person in attendance on Wednesday asked him if he was anti-gay and if he still opposes gay marriage.

"No, I'm not anti-gay. I just believe marriage is between a man and a woman," Conaway said.

Last week, Conaway was appointed to chair the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential election. Former Chairman Devin Nunes stepped down after ethics questions.

Conaway told KTXS he will focus on what's most important.

"What did the Russians do or not do in the 2016 election, and what did the Trump campaign and/or administration do or not do, we're going to find the answers to those questions," Conaway said.

Conaway applauded Senate Republicans for pushing through the nomination of Neil Gorsuch.

"It's good for the country," he said. "My sense of … Justice Gorsuch now is that he'll read the constitution, he'll be a strict [interpreter]."

Some town hall members on Wednesday also questioned him on whether he supports the federal government paying for college. Conaway said he wouldn't support such an initiative, stating "it's a Texas responsibility."

Another constituent also questioned him about denouncing hate speech, saying "I'm just asking for a leader."

"I will lead as often as I can. Whether it meets your expectations, I don't know," Conaway said.

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Conaway told KTXS the focus of Congress should turn to avoiding a government shutdown. The federal government's funding is set to expire on April 29, unless a funding bill is passed.

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