Howard Dean (search), former governor of Vermont and now chairman of the Democratic National Committee, will be the keynote speaker Friday at the Association of State Democratic Chairs (search) luncheon.

Dean will highlight the committee's agenda to strengthen the state parties in his speech.

"We are excited about Governor Dean's first visit to Arkansas as Democratic National Committee (search) Chairman," said Jason Willett, chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas.

Willett said Dean shares many values with Arkansans. "He is a fiscal conservative and a social progressive who has a strong record of fighting for seniors and working families," he said.

As governor, Dean helped Vermont pay off much of its debt, balanced the budget 11 times and lowered income taxes twice. He also championed a health-care plan under which 96 percent of Vermont's children have health-care coverage.

"Governor Dean recognizes the importance of state Democratic parties to Democratic grassroots efforts nationwide, and is committed to making the strenghtening of state parties a priority with the DNC," Willett said.