True to his word that he would take his party's message to conservative bastions, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean (search) rallied a crowd Thursday in Kansas, a state that has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1964.

The former presidential candidate and Vermont governor criticized President Bush's budget record and plans for Social Security (search) while urging people to get involved in politics no matter what their philosophy.

"Democracy will fail if it's not nurtured. I'm asking you to run for the school board, I'm asking you to run for the city council, I'm asking you to run for library trustee," Dean told a Washburn University audience of about 800. "Work in somebody's campaign, three hours a week, if that's all you can do."

Dean was scheduled to headline a $5-a-ticket rally at a downtown Lawrence theater Friday. He also planned to participate in several private fund-raisers for the Kansas Democratic Party.

Dean criticized Bush's plan to create personal investment accounts as part of Social Security, saying: "I don't believe the way to fix Social Security is to have Wall Street run it so that it can be invested in Enron and Tyco and MCI."

On another topic, Dean said that continued federal budget deficits are a problem because foreign investors, including the Chinese, hold much of the debt.

"How would you like to have people you have a disagreement with holding the paper on your house?" he said.

Before his selection as DNC chairman this month, Dean said he would bolster local and state party organizations even in the nation's most conservative areas.

"How do we expect those places to vote Democratic when we don't even show up?" Dean said during Thursday's speech.

Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (search), who was elected in a 2002 race marked by tensions between moderate and conservative Republicans, hadn't planned to attend any of Dean's events.