Combat boots are back in fashion politically, as the Democratic nominee for Missouri secretary of state becomes the second statewide candidate this year to place them center stage in a campaign commercial.

State Rep. Jason Kander (D-Kansas City) says that his experience serving in Afghanistan -- he was told to write his blood type on his Army boots -- shows that he can be a leader for the Show Me State. Kander's ad follows an April commercial by Ohio Republican U.S. Senate nominee Josh Mandel, who made his Marine Corps combat boots the centerpiece of his first ad. Kander is running against state House Speaker Pro Tem Shane Schoeller (R-Willard) to succeed retiring Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D).

"To me leadership has been about doing what's right," Kander says in the ad. "If you have had to write your blood type on your boots, you are not afraid to make the tough calls."

Kander joined the Army after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and volunteered to serve in Afghanistan as an intelligence officer. He also made his military background the centerpiece of his first ad in June.

In Mandel's ad, the Ohio state treasurer highlighted his two tours in Iraq and his working-class background, noting the role boots play in both the military and factories. Mandel is challenging Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Highlighting Iraq and Afghanistan military service has been a common theme with several young elected officials in recent races. In addition to the boot ads from Kander, 30, and Mandel, 35, Jersey City, N.J. Councilman Steve Fulop (D), 35, has begun highlighting his Marine Corps service in Iraq in his 2013 campaign to be mayor of New Jersey's second-largest city.

In Missouri, Kander's race for secretary of state has become one of the most competitive, with voter identification and the language of ballot initiatives becoming the top issues. Schoeller has made voter ID laws central to his campaign, with Kander noting his opposition to the requirements. The Missouri Outdoor Advertising Association told HuffPost last month that the $89,300 the organization donated in free billboard space to Schoeller was to help elect a secretary of state who would shape favorable ballot language in the event a referendum is held on the future of billboards.

On his website, Schoeller highlights a July commercial where he touts his support for voter ID laws, including his sponsorship of related unsuccessful legislation. Schoeller, who has said that photo ID cards are needed to drive, get on planes and rent movies, has indicated that he will use the secretary of state's office to pass and implement voter ID legislation in Missouri.

"In today's world, shouldn't we do more to protect the integrity of our elections?" Schoeller says in the July ad.

Schoeller's campaign was not available for immediate comment.

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  • Start of War: Oct. 7, 2001

    <em>American soldiers hide behind a barricade during an explosion, prior to fighting with Taliban forces November 26, 2001 at the fortress near Mazar-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan. (Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)</em>

  • Number of U.S. Troops in Afghanistan: 88,000

    <em>US Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed from the USS Bataan's Amphibious Ready Group arrive December 14, 2001 at an undisclosed location with field gear and weapons. (Photo by Johnny Bivera/Getty Images)</em>

  • Number of Troops at War's Peak

    <em>U.S. Marines begin to form up their convoy at a staging area near Kandahar, Afghanistan, as they await orders to begin their trek to Kandahar to take control of the airfield 13 December, 2001. (DAVE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan at the war's peak: About 101,000 in 2010. Allies provided about 40,000.

  • Withdrawal Plans

    <em>U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a televised address from the East Room of the White House on June 22, 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais-Pool/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Withdrawal plans: 23,000 U.S. troops expected to come home by the end of the summer, leaving about 68,000 in Afghanistan. Most U.S. troops expected to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, though the U.S. is expected to maintain a sizeable force of military trainers and a civilian diplomatic corps.

  • Number of U.S. Casualties

    <em>American flags, each one representing the 4,454 American soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, move in the breeze at The Christ Congregational United Church March 17, 2008 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Number of U.S. casualties: At least 1,828 members of the U.S. military killed as of Tuesday, according to an Associated Press count. According to the Defense Department, 15,786 U.S. service members have been wounded in hostile action.

  • Afghan Civilian Casualties

    <em>Asan Bibi, 9, sits on a bench as burn cream is applied to her at Mirwais hospital October 13, 2009 Kandahar, Afghanistan. She, her sister and mother were badly burned when a helicopter fired into their tent in the middle of the night on October 3rd, according to their father. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Afghan civilian casualties: According to the United Nations, 11,864 civilians were killed in the conflict between 2007, when the U.N. began reporting statistics, and the end of 2011.

  • Cost of the War

    <em>An Iraqi man counts money behind a pile of American dollars in his currency exchange bureau in Baghdad on April 11, 2012. (ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Cost of the war: $443 billion from fiscal year 2001 through fiscal year 2011, according to the Congressional Research Service.

  • Number of Times Obama Has Visited Afghanistan

    <em>US President Barack Obama speaks to troops during a visit to Bagram Air Field on May 1, 2012 in Afghanistan. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images) </em><br><br> Number of times Obama has visited Afghanistan: 3 as president, including Tuesday, and 1 as a presidential candidate.