Photo by Adam Ryan Morris
This was Bob Donovan’s kind of crowd.
Boisterous, conservative and mostly blue-collar, they were packed into Serb Hall – an obligatory destination for any ambitious politician – waiting on that autumn night in 2012 for the South Side alderman to speak.
It was billed as a rally to oppose Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s planned Downtown modern streetcar line. Donovan, the keynote speaker, was ready to battle with any streetcar supporters who might have wandered in.
“Tonight, I’ve come prepared,” Donovan proclaimed, holding up a pair of boxing gloves. “And they don’t call us the fighting Irish for nothing.”
At first, Donovan stuck to the streetcar issue, lambasting the transit project as a waste of taxpayer dollars. But in this mecca of fish fries and politics, he couldn’t hold back.
“Milwaukee needs a plan,” he roared from the podium. “It needs a vision.”
Then came the first shout.
“Donovan for mayor!” someone yelled, the standing-room only crowd spilling out of the banquet hall and into the adjacent bar.
On Donovan rolled, ripping into Barrett’s performance on police staffing, education, economic development and jobs.
“I am not satisfied with the status quo in Milwaukee, and neither should you be,” Donovan declared. “As God is my witness, I believe in the power of the people.”
“Mayor! Mayor! Mayor!” chanted the crowd, applauding as Donovan exited, shaking a few hands on his way into the bar.
Donovan for mayor? Seriously?
To some, it makes perfect sense. Donovan is Barrett’s most persistent and vocal critic on the Milwaukee Common Council, speaking for disaffected older white voters in the city’s south and northwest sectors. He parlayed his rhetorical skills and two-term chairmanship of the council’s Public Safety Committee into a high-profile platform on law-and-order issues. And he has the backing of the city’s police and firefighters unions, which campaigned against Barrett in the Democratic mayor’s 2010 and 2012 gubernatorial bids.
The idea of Donovan as mayor makes so much sense to two of the alderman’s friends that they started a draft-Donovan campaign. In August, 11 months after the Serb Hall rally, a billboard appeared with a message: “Bob Donovan, Run For Mayor! Before it’s too late.” It also advertised a website supporting a potential 2016 candidacy. By the end of that month, dozens had contacted the website or Donovan’s council office to urge him to run.
Still, Donovan says, “I have no plans of running for mayor at this time,” those last three words keeping the door open just wide enough to tantalize his supporters.
But to others, a Donovan candidacy seems ludicrous. His critics see him as a loud-mouthed, publicity-hungry loose cannon who glosses over the difficult budget decisions needed to turn his ideas into policy. Colleagues say Donovan’s go-it-alone style has isolated him from the rest of the 15-member council – even his conservative allies.
If he entered the mayoral race, Donovan would face a huge fundraising gap against Barrett, whose $371,094 campaign treasury was nearly 33 times as large as Donovan’s $11,395 as of June 30. And any challenger would be fighting history in a city where voters haven’t ousted an incumbent mayor since 1940.
Not that Donovan hasn’t overcome obstacles before, the kind that wrecked other council members’ careers. When federal grand juries indicted a total of five aldermen – Rosa Cameron, Paul Henningsen, Jeff Pawlinski, Michael McGee and Donovan – between 2002 and 2007, he was the only one to avoid prison and keep his seat. After his district was remapped with a Hispanic “supermajority” for the 2012 election, Donovan defeated educator Benjamin Juarez during a cycle that saw longtime Ald. Jim Witkowiak lose his re-election bid to developer José Pérez in a neighboring district. And even though Common Council President Willie Hines Jr. kicked Donovan off the Public Safety Committee last year, ending a tenure that had lasted since 2004, the alderman remains a prominent voice on such issues.
But deep in Donovan’s past is a little-known fact that Milwaukee’s strongly Democratic voters may find even harder to forgive than a federal indictment: He ran for office not just once, but twice, as a Republican.
Politics wasn’t Donovan’s first career choice, or even his second. He wanted to be Father Bob.
In his admission interview for St. Francis de Sales Seminary, Donovan was asked for his idea of the perfect priest. “And I said, ‘Bing Crosby in Going My Way,’” he recalled. But after a year at the seminary, he added, “I found out it wasn’t at all like Bing Crosby in Going My Way.”
Donovan’s next stop was the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he majored in history and hoped to become a teacher. “That didn’t pan out,” he says, and he left UWM after two years for a full-time job with Milwaukee Solvay Coke & Gas Co., the Walker’s Point coal-processing plant where he’d been a laborer during the summers. He would go on to become a supervisor and later a plant foreman.
In 1982, Donovan launched his first political campaign, challenging Democrat Joe Czarnezki’s bid for a second term in the Wisconsin Assembly.
“[Donovan] was the conservative South Sider, and I was somehow the liberal Democrat,” is how Czarnezki, now the Milwaukee County Clerk, recalls Donovan’s campaign theme.
Donovan says, “I ran as a Republican in Milwaukee County. That will give you an indication of how incredibly naive politically I was at the time. ... I ran and got my ass kicked.”
Czarnezki trounced Donovan, more than 3-to-1. The next year, after Czarnezki won a special state Senate election, Donovan again sought the Assembly seat, falling this time to Democrat Peggy Krusick by a 2-to-1 margin.
Donovan isn’t that politically naive any more. He didn’t mention either of those Assembly races when, in the first of four interviews with Milwaukee Magazine for this article, he was asked how he got into politics. Pressed in the second interview to explain the omission, he became uncharacteristically reticent. But he eventually conceded that being labeled a Republican could count against him in some voters’ eyes, even in a nonpartisan race. Political observers say this is why another law-and-order conservative (and former mayoral candidate), Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, runs as a Democrat, despite espousing views that match the GOP line and, at times, veer far to the right.
In this predominantly Democratic city, “It’s to Donovan’s advantage to be running for nonpartisan office,” says Mordecai Lee, a UWM governmental affairs professor and former Democratic lawmaker. “This is what’s wrong with having nonpartisan elected officials. You need to be able to tell which players are on which teams.”
Donovan says he was drawn to the Republican Party by his admiration for then-President Ronald Reagan, who won over many traditionally Democratic blue-collar voters.
Today, Donovan says, he’s no longer a Republican. Instead, he calls himself “a proud nonpartisan.” But he’s still a conservative. He still admires Reagan. And over the summer, he was reading
Edmund Burke: The First Conservative, a biography of the 18th-century Irish statesman.
After Milwaukee Solvay Coke went out of business in 1983, Donovan bounced from one job to another, delivering newspapers, selling insurance, working as a security guard and selling pest-control services.
It was while on one of those jobs, providing security at Southridge Mall, that he met his future wife, Kathy, then a sales clerk at a women’s clothing store. She had three young children – Stephanie, Eric and Amanda – from a previous marriage; two more, Eileen and Elizabeth, were born after the Donovans wed in 1985. The family settled in the South Side’s Burnham Park neighborhood, not far from Jackson Park, where Donovan grew up.
But Donovan didn’t like what he was seeing in the area. Longtime residents were dying or moving out, only to be replaced by “transients, renters” who often lacked “the commitment to the neighborhood that I think sometimes homeowners have,” he says.
That led Donovan to become active in the Southside Organizing Committee and the Layton Boulevard West Neighbors Association. In those community groups, he found others who shared his concerns about the neighborhood’s challenges, as well as his dissatisfaction with how then-Ald. Wayne Frank dealt with those challenges. They convinced him to run against Frank, a prominent local playwright who, they believed, was focusing more on the stage than on the streets.
Flawed nominating petitions kept Donovan off the 1996 primary ballot, but he mounted a write-in campaign. He came in second, with more votes than Frank’s four other challengers combined, then lost narrowly to the incumbent in the general election.
Four years later, Frank decided against seeking an eighth term. Donovan ran again, this time against community activist G. Eddie Paez.
During that campaign, Paez questioned Donovan’s character, pointing to his 1992 arrest in a men’s room in UWM’s Mitchell Hall for peeping through a hole in a partition between two stalls. He was issued a citation for disorderly conduct and paid a $93 fine.
According to the UWM Police report, Donovan told the arresting officer he’d frequented the restroom for years “for the purpose of either watching men masturbate, or to have sex with men in the restroom.”
In 2000, Donovan denied making that statement and claimed he was looking through the hole because the officer, who was in the next stall, was “acting suspicious.” And more recently, he told Milwaukee Magazine in September that he did not wish to discuss the incident, saying, “I was issued a ticket, much as you would be issued a ticket for speeding. I paid it. End of story.”
The revelation did not derail Donovan’s campaign. He bested Paez by a 59-40 percent margin.
On the council, Donovan came up with new ways to serve constituents. Instead of working exclusively from City Hall, he opened a district office. With no city money budgeted for such an office, Donovan convinced local businesses to chip in for the rent and recruited some 50 volunteers to staff the office. And he founded a nonprofit organization, the Milwaukee Alliance, that built on the district office’s work and wound up renting space to the office.
The alliance played a key role in launching the South Side’s first community prosecution unit, in which city and state prosecutors based in district police stations work with other city agencies and community groups to address neighborhood problems, such as absentee landlords and nuisance properties.
But then-U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic found the relationship too cozy after Donovan voted to allocate $200,000 in federal funds to the alliance. Donovan told city officials he had stepped down as the alliance’s leader and had no financial connection to the organization.
In a July 2005 grand jury indictment, however, Biskupic alleged the alliance had paid $2,700 to Donovan’s wife and falsified records to conceal her nine paychecks, including one signed by the alderman himself. The indictment also alleged Donovan used campaign funds to pay the alliance for the district office’s rent and to loan money to the alliance, while the group used its paid staffers for his constituent service work. According to the indictment, Donovan didn’t disclose any of those connections, a violation of federal conflict-of-interest rules.
Before the case was to go to trial, Donovan’s attorneys found documents proving that he’d told the city Ethics Board about the payments to his wife. Biskupic dropped the charges in exchange for Donovan’s agreement to pay $2,500 (which the prosecutor called a fine, but which Donovan insists was only a reimbursement to the city for
investigating him). The deal also banned Donovan from being involved in any federally funded community groups for two years and required him to cut ties with the alliance. Within a month, the organization folded.
Donovan says he doesn’t blame Biskupic for bringing charges, but he believes the prosecutor was fed false information by the alderman’s political enemies, whom he declined to name.
“That’s the downside of politics.” Donovan says. “If you’re doing your job, you’re going to step on some toes. ... You end up having enemies [who] you don’t even know exist.”
Donovan’s way of doing his job has led him to step on many a toe – easily identifiable toes that he’s smashed in public meetings, press conferences and news releases. He appears before the news media so often that Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane once dubbed him the “Human Press Conference.” From April 2008 through March of this year, Donovan issued 169 news releases – twice the council average for that five-year period and second only to North Side Ald. Milele Coggs, who holds fewer press conferences and grants fewer interviews than Donovan.
That exposure has gained Donovan a citywide notoriety that few aldermen enjoy. Of the roughly 150 calls his office fields each week, about five to 15 come from outside his 8th District, rising to around 20 or 25 after he’s issued a news release or held a press conference, aide Patty Doherty says. The office assists those callers with simple requests, such as sanitation complaints, or refers them to the appropriate city agencies if they say their own aldermen aren’t helping with more serious problems, she says.
Donovan isn’t concerned about treading on other aldermen’s territory. “Last I checked, my paycheck said, ‘City of Milwaukee,’” he says, “so I don’t give a damn anymore.”
Other aldermen aren’t so sanguine about territorial incursions, as Donovan learned in late May, when he sounded off about a manufacturer’s plan to move out of Ald. Joe Dudzik’s adjacent district. Donovan sent out a news release chastising city officials for not addressing the graffiti and parking problems cited as factors in the company’s move to Muskego. That drew an angry response from Dudzik, who said he’d been working on those issues.
Without naming Donovan, Dudzik wrote in a news release, “He repeatedly sticks his nose into other colleagues’ districts and issues, and does so behind everyone’s back. And some wonder why he’s a lone wolf who almost never works cooperatively with his colleagues (even when a few of those colleagues are like-minded on an issue of interest).”
Dudzik chided Donovan for his “large ego” and “pandering ... to the media,” adding, “But it is all a sham, because while he is riding around on his white pony, spouting off about this and that, he is largely ineffective and lame when it comes to working collaboratively with other council members. So my advice to my colleague: If you think you truly have all the answers and all of the solutions for Milwaukee, then run for mayor.”
And that came from Donovan’s closest ally on the council.
Donovan didn’t respond, but the two have had little to say to each other since. Dudzik says he still votes with Donovan on many issues.
Even more public was a May 2012 clash with Downtown Ald. Bob Bauman, who interrupted a Donovan press conference to accuse him of misleading the public about the streetcar plan. Donovan grew red-faced, pointing his finger at Bauman and slamming his fist on the podium as television cameras rolled. The confrontation lasted some eight minutes, until council communications chief Bill Arnold persuaded Donovan to walk away.
But as he left, Donovan kept trading shots with Bauman, declaring, “I have stood up for the little guy in this community.”
Later, Bauman told WITI-TV Channel 6: “He believes in the Milwaukee that was once homogeneous. All white. That had all kinds of blue-collar employment. That didn’t require a lot of education to succeed and obtain a middle-class job. The ‘Laverne & Shirley’ Milwaukee. The ‘Laverne & Shirley’ Milwaukee is gone.”
Donovan didn’t dispute that characterization, telling WITI: “There are a lot of, I think, good things from the past that we should try and bring back. I remember growing up in neighborhoods where people knew each other.”
Someone who stands up for the little guy and wants to bring back the old Milwaukee – that’s the image that resonates with Donovan supporters. It shows in the name of the draft-Donovan website: imisstheoldmilwaukee.com.
“I remember being able to walk the streets without being jumped or robbed,” says Mark Dudenhoefer, the store owner who started the draft-Donovan movement with market research analyst Steve Smith. “I remember people coming from out of town and commenting on how clean the streets are. It’s a pigsty now.”
Dudenhoefer, an ex-cop, worked with Donovan as a police community liaison officer. In 2006, Donovan led an unsuccessful push to convince then-Police Chief Nan Hegerty to reverse Dudenhoefer’s transfer to a North Side patrol beat after he criticized the city’s crime-fighting efforts. Dudenhoefer believes Donovan “has got a passion for the city. ... He cares about what goes on in the community. He doesn’t want to see it crumble.”
Betty Grinker, who’s known Donovan for 25 years, concurs. “He is sincere in everything he does,” says Grinker, a conservative community activist and business owner. “He lives here. He’s raised a family here. ... It’s sad that a man who is desperately trying to make this a better place to live and raise children is ridiculed as an attention-getter.”
Grinker worked with Donovan on the Southside Organizing Committee. That group’s longtime executive director, Steve Fendt, says winning four aldermanic elections, including an unopposed bid in 2008, hasn’t changed Donovan’s approach.
“He’s still playing the role of the rabble-rouser,” Fendt says, more like a community activist working outside the system than like an elected official. Donovan says he tries to work within the system, but he isn’t shy about using other tactics if they become necessary.
Grinker and some City Hall insiders compare Donovan’s outspoken style to that of the late Bob Anderson, another colorful South Side alderman, famous for chewing out city administrators and telling them they were fired, although he had no power to dismiss them.
But Anderson was politic enough to win the council presidency by exploiting divisions among his colleagues. Donovan, by contrast, “has totally alienated himself on the council,” Bay View Ald. Tony Zielinski says.
“Part of the problem is how he communicates,” by “getting in front of the cameras” instead of working behind the scenes, says West Side Ald. Michael Murphy. “Sometimes, yelling at each other is just not the answer.”
Murphy, the chairman of the council’s Finance & Personnel Committee, and Patrick Curley, Barrett’s chief of staff, voice frustration that Donovan’s on-camera yelling about boosting police and fire staffing usually isn’t coupled with realistic funding proposals. That’s one reason why Barrett doesn’t take Donovan’s criticisms seriously, Curley says.
“As loud as Bob gets, he has a real deficiency in connecting the dots” between increasing spending and balancing the budget in the face of state aid cuts and levy limits, Curley says. “It’s the mayor’s responsibility to connect those dots.”
Donovan did successfully push to boost night parking fees to scale back police furloughs in the 2010 budget. But he says he gave up a seat on the finance panel because he was frustrated the council couldn’t make dramatic changes in Barrett’s budgets.
Fendt says Donovan is “not winning any friends” in City Hall. Nor does he want to. While aldermen don’t socialize with each other as much as they once did, some will occasionally grab lunch together – except Donovan, Dudzik says. Donovan says he has no interest in socializing with his colleagues, preferring the company of friends and family.
But while Donovan may not have any friends on the council, he has plenty in the police and fire departments. The Republican-leaning police and firefighters unions have backed him in his council races, and he typically supports their positions.
Indeed, no issue has defined Donovan’s career more than public safety. Every fall, he wades into budget debates to argue for more cops on the street and against any firefighter staffing cuts.
Outside the budget process, Donovan has founded Operation Impact, a privately funded initiative that’s raised money for overtime for neighborhood beat cops, security cameras at local businesses, alley lighting and an armored vehicle for police surveillance of nuisance properties. Since 2008, the initiative has raised $478,329 – from major organizations like the Bradley Foundation, the Forest County Potawatomi Foundation and Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, as well as small businesses and individuals – funneled through the Milwaukee Christian Center.
Donovan also pioneered the Neighborhood Ambassador program, in which public aid recipients work at cleanup and graffiti removal projects while keeping their eyes open for criminal activity.
But some think Donovan overplays his signature issue. Sources say other aldermen were uncomfortable with his grandstanding as public safety chair, fearing he hurt the city’s image with such tactics as calling for the National Guard to help enforce order.
They were also skittish about his attempt to subpoena Police Chief Edward Flynn for years of documents about the OpenSky digital radio system, after the police and fire unions publicized its shortcomings to attack Barrett during his failed 2010 gubernatorial campaign against Republican Scott Walker.
Then came the joint statement by Donovan and Dudzik after swarms of black youths attacked mainly white visitors at the 2011 State Fair. The white aldermen blamed the violence on “a deteriorating African-American culture in our city.” Then-County Supervisor Eyon Biddle, who is black, denounced the statement as “pointless rhetoric that creates more division and incites hatred” instead of dealing with the root causes of violence.
Observers thought the State Fair statement and Flynn subpoena controversies likely led Hines, the black council president, to replace Donovan with South Side Ald. Terry Witkowski as public safety chair last year. Hines denied that at the time, saying he chose Witkowski, a former police safety director, to broaden the committee’s focus. Hines did not return calls seeking comment for this article.
The streets of Burnham Park are quiet on a summer afternoon, as Donovan marshals a small group of city and neighborhood association staffers for one of his twice-weekly neighborhood walks.
For 45 minutes, they march down every street and alley between West Mitchell, West Orchard, South 36th and South 38th streets. Each time Donovan spots some minor code infraction – peeling paint on a garage door, too many cars on a resident’s property, a discarded tire left out for trash pickup instead of being taken to a self-help center – he asks city public works and neighborhood services staffers to write them up.
A constituent stops to chat and tells Donovan about a streetlight outage the night before. Donovan pulls out his cell phone and tells his aide, Patty Doherty, to check it out. A bit later, Donovan notices a temporary tow-away zone sign left after a completed street project and calls that in to Doherty. Another city staffer calls to tell him workers have removed some graffiti he reported.
This part of an alderman’s job rarely makes headlines. But council members say the way they handle constituent service has more impact on their re-election chances than any press conferences or policy debates. And, they agree, Donovan excels at constituent service.
Of all the jobs he’s had, Donovan says, “This is probably the most challenging, but also the most rewarding, because every now and then, you can help somebody.”
The walk is over, and Donovan is sitting in his favorite hangout, the George Webb at 21st and Mitchell. In his shirt sleeves, with no jacket or tie, he blends in easily with other regulars. He’s been stopping here for coffee every morning for years, a habit he developed to unwind after completing his route delivering the former Milwaukee Sentinel.
“Come into places like this, and you’ll find out what’s really going on in the community,” he says.
This is about as close to a district office as Donovan has these days. He often meets with constituents here. Some even call the restaurant and ask for him. Others may catch him outside, smoking one of the cigarettes from his pack-and-a-half-a-day habit.
It was here, on May 31, 2012, that John Henry Spooner found Donovan and vented his frustration with the police investigation into his missing guns. “There are other ways of handling these things,” the then-75-year-old Spooner ominously told the alderman.
Then Spooner went home, confronted the 13-year-old neighbor he suspected of the theft, and shot Darius Simmons dead as the boy’s mother watched. Donovan testified to the conversation during the trial that saw Spooner convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
The white man’s killing of the black youth drew comparisons to George Zimmerman’s 2012 killing of another black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in Florida, although Spooner lacked Zimmerman’s ultimately successful claim of self-defense. Many saw the Spooner case as a sign of tension over racial changes in South Side neighborhoods. Spooner lived in Pérez’s district, but the changes in Donovan’s district dominated debate when the council redrew aldermanic boundaries in 2011.
A decade earlier, the 8th District’s voting-age population had been 52 percent non-Hispanic whites and 36 percent Hispanics. But with the city’s Hispanic population surging, the remap gave Hispanics a voting-age majority of more than 60 percent in two districts, adding Donovan’s district to Witkowiak’s in that category.
Donovan bitterly fought the boundary change that shifted three predominantly white Jackson Park wards into Dudzik’s district. Like his federal indictment, Donovan saw it as an attempt by his foes to silence him. Dudzik says Donovan even accused him of conspiring to steal Donovan’s childhood neighborhood and power base.
“If you were to point to any one thing that changed my relationship with Ald. Donovan, it was how he handled redistricting,” Dudzik says. “Bob made it real personal, and I didn’t appreciate that.”
Dudzik and Murphy say they told Donovan not to worry because his diligent constituent service would guarantee his re-election.
“It wasn’t all older white people voting for him,” Murphy says.
The 2012 election seemingly proved that point, as Donovan cruised to a 60-39 percent victory over Juarez. As in his 71-29 win over businessman Dagoberto Ibarra in 2004, Donovan carried nearly every ward in the district.
UWM’s Lee says Donovan’s win in the Hispanic-dominated district shows “he’s got some serious political chops.” Hispanic leaders, by contrast, say Donovan wins by catering to older white residents who vote faithfully, while disdaining low-turnout Hispanics. They also say Donovan’s Hispanic challengers lacked the organizing skills and crossover appeal that Pérez used to unseat Witkowiak.
Donovan claims he has a good relationship with the Hispanic community. When constituents seek his aid, “I don’t ask anyone what the hell nationality they are,” he says. “I’ll try and help them out if they live in my district.”
But that brand of street-level politics doesn’t build a citywide base – perhaps one reason no Milwaukee alderman has won a mayoral election in 71 years. City Hall insiders say Donovan would appeal mainly to conservative white voters in Milwaukee’s south and northwest neighborhoods, and to suburban campaign donors, while netting little or no support from blacks, Hispanics and liberals.
Milwaukee County GOP spokesman Rick Baas says he’s sure some Republicans would donate to Donovan, calling him “a good advocate for the city” who “seems to go back to the old-fashioned Milwaukee roots of common sense.” Baas was surprised to learn Donovan had run twice on the GOP ticket, saying he had never seen the alderman at any Republican event in the past 20 years.
But aligning with suburban Republicans is a risky proposition for a city politician. The GOP-controlled state government has rebuffed the city on numerous issues – including state aid, residency rules and the streetcar – leading Barrett and other city officials to suggest Walker and his legislative allies are waging war on Milwaukee to punish Barrett for challenging Walker in the 2012 recall election.
“Bob has made a conscious decision to ally himself politically with people who, the last couple of years, have not been very kind to the city,” Barrett aide Curley says, foreshadowing a likely campaign theme if a Donovan-vs.-Barrett contest becomes reality.
Donovan, who unsuccessfully lobbied GOP lawmakers for police funding, says he’s loyal to city taxpayers, adding, “If you want something done, you’re going to have to work with the people who are in charge.”
Although Republicans insist they have nothing against the city, that wouldn’t stop them from funding a Barrett challenger to exact political retribution for the recall, says Lee. “Modern American politics is not ‘forgive and forget,’” Lee says. “It’s ‘remember and get even.’”
Observers are divided over whether Donovan might be the challenger whom Republicans use to get even with Barrett. Officially, he’s not in the race right now.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’d ever thought about it,” Donovan says. Then he cites the difficulties of raising money and building a citywide coalition and repeats he’s not planning a mayoral race “at this time.”
Whether he changes his mind or seeks re-election, the 57-year-old Donovan says, “I have no intention of retiring anytime soon. There’s a lot more work that needs to be done.”
Bob Donovan still has more battles to fight – and, no doubt, more press conferences to call.