Covington City Councilman Mark Wright defeated retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness for the House District 77 seat Saturday, overcoming an opponent who had been the front-runner in the Oct. 14 primary and had more money and greater name recognition.

Wright, 47, won with 58 percent of the vote after winning the endorsement of the other two candidates in that race as well as the St. Tammany Republican Executive Committee.

The contest marks the third unsuccessful run for Maness, who twice ran for U.S. Senate.

"I'm very grateful for the strong and broad support shown by the district,'' a jubilant Wright said from his victory party at the Greater Covington Center. "I'm looking forward to jumping in and finding solutions for the state over the next two years. There's a lot to learn right off the bat. I feel like I'm walking into the middle of a movie."

After a low-key primary that drew a field of four candidates, the runoff for the seat left open by the resignation of John Schroder became far more intense as Maness and Wright traded barbs and political observers predicted a close race.

Maness seized the mantle of outsider and accused his opponent of being a Washington lobbyist whose support was coming from political insiders.

He pointed to a series of attack ads paid for by a political action committee with ties to one of Maness' opponents in the 2016 race for U.S. senator, former U.S. Rep. John Fleming. Maness said the ads were payback for his refusal to drop out of the race for U.S. Senate that was ultimately won by John Kennedy. He called the ads evidence that Baton Rouge insiders were supporting Wright and trying to smear him.

Wright, for his part, painted himself as the victim of "pathetic" attacks by his opponent, including shots that Maness took at the endorsements of the other two candidates in the primary — support that he said Maness also sought. He took advantage of Maness blowing up at a caller on his talk radio show, calling it an example of what won't work in Baton Rouge.

Maness was the top vote-getter in the primary with a comfortable 37 percent compared to Wright's 25 percent. He also had a bigger campaign fund than Wright and outspent him.

While Maness' two previous losses in bids for U.S. Senate led to some criticism that he is a perennial candidate, Wright said that he was running against a candidate with greater name recognition.

The losing candidates in the primary, Southern Hotel owner Lisa Condrey Ward and Casey Revere, the 1st Ward justice of the peace who has strong ties in Madisonville, both threw their support to Wright.

The Covington city councilman also got the endorsement of the St. Tammany Republican Executive Committee.

Maness was endorsed by state Rep. Paul Hollis.

The western St. Tammany district includes Covington, Madisonville and Folsom. Wright, who is in his second term on the Covington council, won his last election without opposition.

Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.