Cyndi Nguyen NO.districte.adv

Cyndi Nguyen

Challenger Cyndi Nguyen easily unseated Councilman James Gray on Saturday, denying his bid for a second full term in the District E seat. Nguyen, a 47-year-old community organizer, becomes the first council member of Vietnamese descent. 

Nguyen, a Democrat, received 59 percent of the vote compared to Gray's 41 percent. 

Gray, 71, a retired lawyer, has held the seat since 2012. District E, which covers most of New Orleans East and the Lower 9th Ward, is about 87 percent black.

Gray, a Democrat who is black, led a pack of five candidates in the Oct. 14 primary, garnering 38 percent of the vote.

Nguyen, also a Democrat, took 26 percent in that contest. 

Gray also had the endorsements of the third- and fifth-place finishers int he primary, and many supporters of the fourth-place finisher also supported him. 

Gray touted his experience during his campaign, saying that being a lawyer and the son of a contractor afforded him a unique skill set to spur development in the largest council district. 

He told The New Orleans Advocate recently that the things have moved in the right direction during his tenure. Crime, blight and a lack of retail development have plagued the district, particularly after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He's vowed to lure new businesses and residents to the district. 

"If you look at the progress over the last four years, you would be happy," he said. "I'm unhappy with where we are. I would like to be further down the road." 

A review of campaign finance reports shows Gray also significantly outspent Nguyen following the primary, though she took in more money than he did during that period. 

For her part, Nguyen said she was running to offer voters a change, saying Gray had not been responsive to his constituents. She ran on a platform of repairing blight and increasing economic opportunity in New Orleans East. 

"The City Council is about being a public servant," Nguyen said recently. "If you are not in tune and participating in community meetings, this is not a position for you."

Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.