EXCLUSIVE: A popular minister retiring from the electorate means the battle for the sleepy middle-class seat of Ryde in Sydney’s leafy north-west is well and truly on. But only after a couple of false starts. Chiara Bragato reports.
A small electorate in Sydney’s northern suburbs, the seat of Ryde has had its fair share of political intrigue in the past year. As the 2023 NSW State Election approaches, candidates have become more active in their engagement with the community, appearing frequently on social media and in local businesses.
Over the past decade, the seat of Ryde has been confidently held by Liberal party member, Victor Dominello. Having admirably held his seat since 2008, the politician is retiring at the conclusion of his current term. Citing “a family health issue which … has since deteriorated”, he was “eternally grateful” for his community and team for the work they’ve done over the past decade and a half, and wished luck to the new minister who would take his seat.
Set to replace Dominello, is Liberal Councillor Jordan Lane. In 2021 Lane was elected Mayor of Ryde, replacing Labor minister Jeroma Laxale, who had held the position for five years. At 27-years-old, Lane was the youngest person ever to be elected as Mayor for Ryde. Having served as a Councillor for East Ward for many years, with majority support from the council, his election promised a strong future for the local community.
However, within a year, he had resigned his position. In a statement on his social media, he announced his candidacy for the Ryde 2023 State Election. Simultaneously, he stated that he “made the decision to stand down as the Mayor of Ryde” as the position “is too important to be anything but a first priority.” He determined that he would “continue to serve” the “community as a Councillor,” so as to avoid a by-election.
Liberal candidate for Ryde: Jordan Lane (Image: Supplied)
This practice is unusual, given the support and supposed success that he purported as Mayor. What is even more curious, is that despite making the announcement about his resignation in early December, True Crime News Weekly at the time (or, for a fair while afterwards) could find no record of his registration as a candidate. The Register of Candidates, which was updated by the NSW Electoral Commission only days before Christmas, did not list Jordan Lane as as a candidate, nor in fact, did it list any candidate for the seat of Ryde.
This lack of candidates was extremely unusual, particularly given the rapidly approaching election date.
As Ryde has a been a Liberal seat for the past decade and half, it was expected that the NSW Labor Party would take this opportunity to present a strong candidate to challenge their stronghold. A new Liberal member, who does not necessarily have the faith of the community is more likely to be unseated than a reigning minister.
As such, the Labor Party had initially supported candidate Dr Francisco Valencia to contest the long-held seat. A graduate of Sydney University, Dr Valencia has been a doctor within the community for years, and as such was poised as a strong representative, stating in a public post announcing his candidacy, “I too have a desire to serve, but my calling has always been to care for people.”
Labor candidate for Ryde, Lyndal Howison: (Image: Supplied)
However in December last year, he voluntarily withdrew his candidacy. This shockingly came as a result of an allegation of domestic violence that was made against him in Brisbane. Whilst the details of the event are not public, it is believed to be an incident involving a ‘mental breakdown’, according to his lawyer, Javid Faiz. Whilst Dr Valencia and his partner requested privacy during this time, he expressed through his lawyer that “it’s important for anyone experiencing work-related stress or mental breakdown to immediately seek help.”
Since notifying the Labor office and withdrawing his candidacy, no new announcements regarding a Labor contender have been publicly made, despite the approaching March election. With Valencia due to appear in Brisbane court within the next few weeks, True Crime News Weekly is intrigued to see how the Labor Party will treat the affair.
According to the NSW Labor website, member Lyndal Howison is listed as a Candidate for Ryde, quietly replacing Valencia as their nominee. However, similarly to Jordan Lane, she was not officially registered as a candidate at the time of Labor quietly putting her forward. Her profile – which highlights her work in the community as a councillor and high school teacher paints a flattering portrait – does however provide a altogether more pleasant alternative to an alleged domestic abuser like Dr Valencia.
Both Howison and Lane were contacted by True Crime News Weekly regarding the matter of their candidacies not being officially registered with the AEC yet. Neither responded to our questions.
However, soon after our enquiries, both Lane and Howison were listed as the official candidates for the Liberal and Labor parties respectively.
Despite the eventual appearance of two suitable members for the major parties contesting the seat, True Crime News Weekly can’t help but wonder how the 2023 Ryde State Election will play out in just a few weeks time.