NEW TRIER (AP) -- Gov. Jesse Ventura wound up his third two-day bus tour of rural Minnesota with a new pair of boots, a toast to the faithful and a renewed insight.
''I learned I'm still pretty popular,'' he said after leaving Dan's Bar and Grill in New Trier, a Dakota County town where several hundred people packed in to have a beer with the governor.
Ventura once again was greeted by tides of cheering and curious people at every stop Thursday.
''I give him a tremendous amount of credit for coming to a town of 103 people,'' said Patricia Eckert, a Hastings native and former president of the California Public Utilities Commission, who was at the bar with her parents. ''Compared to California politics, this is a wonderful return to the people, in the democratic sense.''
At Lark Toys, a studio and showroom for handmade wooden toys in Kellogg, Bob Suhre, who farms in Wabasha County, raised questions about light-rail transit's value to rural Minnesota.
''I don't think it's going to be stopped in the Senate, and I'm not going to stop it. It's fine,'' Ventura said. He said he favors commuter rail links between the Twin Cities and Rochester and the Twin Cities and St. Cloud.
In Winona and Wabasha, Ventura faced demands for more aid for their public schools. He responded that perhaps state government ought to take over all school funding and said he was ''confused'' by district shortfalls since he authorized a 17 percent increase in elementary and secondary education funding last year.
Ventura returned repeatedly to his pleas for a vote on a unicameral Legislature and for a $75 limit on vehicle-tab fees.
He also did his part for the Minnesota economy, buying a pair of $180 Red Wing work boots in Red Wing.
The fact that they were size 13D confirmed a common reaction to Ventura's personal appearances.
''He's bigger than I expected,'' said Art Von Helmst of Lake City.
The governor is planning two trips to northern Minnesota in April and May.
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