Among the trio of this year’s off-year gubernatorial contests, Mississippi has emerged as the most surprising race.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves still has the edge, according to Republicans and Democrats nationally and locally we’ve talked to, but it’s morphed into a competitive fight with added intrigue heading into Election Day thanks to an unusually strong challenger in Brandon Presley. There is also an increasing scenario that neither candidate will top 50% on Nov. 7, which means the contest could head to a runoff three weeks later.

For a Democrat, Presley has the type of profile that can be appealing even in the Deep South. The former mayor of Nettleton (population 1,935), he was raised in poverty after his father was murdered and is a second cousin of the legendary Elvis Presley. Commissioner Presley is also anti-abortion and has emphasized his faith in his campaign advertising. As one of the state’s public service commissioners, a role he was elected to in 2007 and subsequently reelected to three times, he has won over traditionally Republican areas in the swath of

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