Ryan Bayldon-Lumsden is the murder suspect standing for re-election in Australia

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published Mar 15, 2024 at 01:12 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

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Outside an Australian community centre, local election candidates give their last appeals to voters heading into the temporary polling station. Yet, there’s a detail that sets this election apart from the norm: the incumbent councillor, Ryan Bayldon-Lumsden, 31, is seeking re-election while wearing an electronic ankle bracelet—a stark reminder of the murder charge he currently faces in connection with his stepfather’s death last summer.

The Gold Coast councillor stands accused of the murder of his 58-year-old stepfather, Robert Lumsden, an incident alleged to have occurred at the family’s residence in Arundel, Queensland on 23 August 2023. Following the charges, Bayldon-Lumsden was granted bail but was subsequently suspended from his duties at the Gold Coast City Council six months ago.

Despite the gravity of the situation, after being charged, Bayldon-Lumsden continued to receive his full yearly salary of AU$160,000 (£82,700; $105,000).

During an interview with the BBC, Bayldon-Lumsden asserted that his decision to run for re-election had garnered support from both the state government and the local community: “I trust in the democratic process where the community has its voice, and they will make the appropriate decision.” He continued: “Ultimately, it’s up to the voters to choose their representative.”

Jenna Schroeder, an independent candidate in the Division Seven district, advocates for placing Bayldon-Lumsden at the bottom of the list. Despite the significant local attention garnered by the incident, she estimates that up to 40 per cent of voters may not fully grasp its political ramifications.

Moreover, the implications of Bayldon-Lumsden’s candidacy extend beyond mere electoral politics. For one, his suspension from the council following the murder charge has left thousands of constituents without representation, sparking concerns about the absence of a voice in local governance. Other candidates have lamented the lack of advocacy for their communities, citing issues ranging from neglected parks to unaddressed development projects.

In the absence of definitive action, Bayldon-Lumsden’s rivals have united under a singular message: “Anyone but Ryan.” With Australia’s preferential voting system, constituents are encouraged to rank their choices, and so the other candidates have adopted a clear stance against the former councillor.

As voters cast their ballots, opinions on Bayldon-Lumsden’s candidacy vary. Some express reservations about electing a councillor facing such serious charges, while others cite his past achievements and dedication to the community. The case has polarised opinions, with some urging a wait-and-see approach until the legal proceedings conclude.

For Bayldon-Lumsden, the campaign represents both a test of political survival and a reaffirmation of faith in the democratic process. Despite the spectre of criminal charges looming over him, the politician remains resolute in his commitment to serving his constituents.

Having secured nearly 80 per cent of the vote after preferences in the previous 2020 election, as reported by the BBC, some of his opponents are convinced that Bayldon-Lumsden has a strong chance of winning once more.

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