GOP Council Candidate, Rick McCabe, Touts Fields, Civility in Upcoming Campaign

McCabe is hoping voters can see past ideology this November. Based on enrollment data from the Westchester County Board of Elections, they’ll need to.

In the Running: Recreation Commission Chairman Rick McCabe with his wife, Beth, and two children. Photo courtesy Rick McCabe
Published May 23, 2024 3:22 PM
4 min read


With Republicans facing an uphill battle at the ballot box this November, the city GOP has turned to a candidate whose campaign will center on improving recreational field spaces and his deep roots in the community.

Rick McCabe, the city Recreation Commission chairman, accepted the Rye Republican Committee’s nomination for City Council last month. The 52-year-old registered independent said he was swayed to run despite not having a connection with either local party, because of a desire to return civility to city government, echoing a similar platform at the center of last year’s council campaign.

“I’m hopeful that I could just be a voice for that notion of, ‘Let’s all work together to try and make things run more efficiently,’” he said.

McCabe, who works in corporate communications for the broadcasting company CBS, moved to the city in 1979 after his dad had taken a job as a police officer with the Rye PD.

He said that longevity has allowed him to see the city undergo a shift, including an influx of new homeowners, yet still appreciate what he refers to as “old Rye” — his parents live in the same apartment that McCabe grew up in.

“It’s still an amazing place to live, even with lots of change,” McCabe said.

He’ll face Democrat James Ward, the chairman of the city Sustainability Committee, this November for an interim, one-year term on the council.

The winner will hold the seat — currently occupied by Democrat Sara Goddard — through 2025, filling the unexpired term of Ben Stacks, following his December resignation.

November’s winner would have to run again next year for a full four-year term.

For McCabe, who took over as recreation chairman in January following a six-year stint on the commission, field space is at the center of his campaign. He has been a vocal advocate for bringing artificial turf to Nursery Field — a project to replace the field’s grass playing surface that was greenlighted by the City Council on May 1.

The estimated $3 million project will be paid for by a nonprofit donor group, Let the Kids Play, whose founder, Matt Pymm, was instrumental in bringing McCabe and the Republican leadership together.

“We live in a community that has … really no space that can be developed into new fields,” McCabe said. “So, it is going to be a conversation about maximizing what we have.”

McCabe said decisions on other city fields, including whether to install artificial turf, should be on a case-by-case basis. But he hopes the conversation is more constructive than the one that surrounded Nursery Field.

“I would say there were points where it was very personal. It … became an us versus them kind of debate,” he said. “But I’d like to think it’s more of a solution-based conversation moving forward.”

Beyond recreation, McCabe plans to campaign on fiscal responsibility and continuing infrastructure upgrades across Rye, noting the sanitary sewer repairs that must be completed by December as part of a settlement over violations of the U.S. Clean Water Act.

Council members, he said, should be “good stewards of not only what’s happening today, but what’s going to happen in the future. And I think being fiscally responsible is an important part of that.”

Former Republican Mayor Douglas French, the last recreation chairman to seek public office, credited his experience running the Recreation Commission, working on land use issues and budgeting, for preparing him for politics.

“I think there’s a huge synergy between the two. There’s a lot of retail politics involved,” said French, who defeated longtime incumbent Steve Otis in 2009.

Jana Seitz, co-chair of the Rye City Republican Committee, said she was impressed with McCabe’s communication skills and civic involvement, and with two young kids, his passion for improving recreational spaces.

“I think he’ll balance athletic spaces with the environmental concerns,” she said. “He has skin in the game. It’ll be an upward climb given the national election, but we’ve got a great candidate.”

Republicans across Westchester face seemingly insurmountable odds this November — amid a shrinking voter base and Donald Trump at the top of the ballot — in an election cycle where Democrats traditionally turn out. Since Trump’s ascendancy in 2016, suburban backlash against the former president has swung the county voter rolls increasingly blue, expanding registration margins to well over 2-to-1 (307,381 to 118,169).

But Republican strategist Bill O’Reilly said those hurdles are not as daunting as they were seven or eight years ago.

“The electorate has figured out the difference between Trump and other Republican candidates,” he said. “I do think the situation on the ground is better, especially for local races. Local races … voters know the candidates personally.”

McCabe is hoping voters can see past ideology. Based on enrollment data from the county Board of Elections, they’ll need to — registered city Democrats outnumber Republicans 4,552 to 2,920.

“I like to think I’ve got a broad base of people … I hope that’s an advantage,” McCabe told The Record. “I think my hope is understanding the difficulties and … not to try to be naive about it, but I’m hopeful that at this level of politics that people can look beyond that and make the best decision for the town.”

And Nursery Field could be the X factor Republicans need to galvanize voters, with an estimated hundreds of families affiliated with the donor group. Republican Party leadership and the council’s two Republicans recently backed the project, which is slated to begin in October. At the same time, opponents of the artificial turf project could turn out against McCabe and support Ward, his opponent.

Ward has not said publicly whether he supports artificial turf, but three prominent Democrats on the council were against the project.

O’Reilly said a hot-button issue like artificial turf could “absolutely” swing a local election, as voters tend to cast their ballots with a single thought in mind.

“It usually comes down to something like a turf field or potholes or a cell phone tower,” he added. “Those are the things that determine local elections, not the top of the ticket.” 

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