COLUMBUS — This isn’t the season to be jolly for Ohio’s Democrats.

For them, winter came early, as it usually does in the years when voters elect a governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, auditor and treasurer.

For the sixth time in the past eight elections for these offices, Republicans last month ran the table, leaving Democrats out in the cold.

There’s a reason to use 1990 as the starting point for this dreary recitation of the Democrats’ political blues.

That year marked the end of what, in retrospect, stands out as the golden era for Democrats. From 1983 through 1990, they held all statewide executive offices, an Ohio House majority and the state’s two U.S. Senate seats.

There’s much talk from the deep thinkers that the Democrats’ sorry plight today is best explained by changes in the Ohio electorate, with identifiers such as age, income and education increasingly favoring Republicans.

That’s probably true, but the quality of candidates as well as demographics makes a big difference in how elections turn out.

During the Democrats’ golden era, four men dominated Ohio politics — Ohio House Speaker Vern Riffe of Scioto County, U.S. Sens. John Glenn and Howard Metzenbaum and Gov. Richard F. Celeste.

Riffe was “Mr. Speaker” from 1975 to 1995. His name rhymed with “strife,” but Riffe, who died at 72 in 1997, did not permit much.

He was a master fundraiser and juggler who cultivated strong candidates in big cities, suburbs, farms and Appalachia.

Glenn, who died at 95 in 2016, was a one-of-a-kind gift to the Democrats, even if they tried to talk him out of running in his first winning Senate election in 1974. He was Ohio and America’s favorite son, a national hero as a Marine combat pilot in World War II and the Korean War and later as the first American to orbit the earth.

Glenn was the only Ohioan elected to four consecutive U.S. Senate terms. In 1974, he carried all 88 Ohio counties.

He was that rare politician whose personal endorsement could help lesser-known candidates win votes. Glenn personally persuaded Bill Clinton not to give up on Ohio in Clinton’s 1992 presidential race, and Clinton carried the state on the way to the White House.

Metzenbaum, who died at 90 in 2008, was no national hero, but he was something in scarce supply today — a fiery, outspoken liberal (he didn’t shun the term) who wanted to use the federal government to promote civil rights, provide health care, protect consumers and lift up the poor.

Based on his record and opinions, he was “too liberal” for Ohio back then and certainly would be today.

Voters didn’t care. Metzenbaum convinced them he was on their side.

Republican George Voinovich found out in 1988 when he tried to stop Metzenbaum from winning a third term.

In the Ohio presidential race, Republican George H.W. Bush got 2,416,549 votes — more than 55 percent to about 44 percent for Democrat Michael Dukakis.

Voters apparently liked Metzenbaum even more than Bush. He got 2,480,038 votes, nearly 57 percent to about 43 percent for Voinovich.

Voinovich went on to become one of the top vote-getters in Ohio history, winning two terms as governor and two U.S. Senate terms. However, he could not touch “Headline Howard,” who would have been a master of today’s digital era had he lived.

Then there’s Celeste, a youthful-looking 81. Since Ohio began electing governors to four-year terms in 1958, four Republicans have been elected to consecutive terms — James A. Rhodes, Voinovich, Bob Taft and John Kasich.

Celeste is the only Democrat to pull this off. He had enough charisma to inspire followers known as “Celestials” and enough political skill to carry the other candidates on the statewide executive ticket to victory with him twice.

Interestingly, one Democrat from that golden era remains in statewide office today. Sherrod Brown was the party’s boy wonder when he won his first term as secretary of state at 29 in 1982. He was re-elected in 1986 but lost a bid for a third term to Bob Taft in 1990.

Brown, now 66, didn’t give up.

He won the first of seven U.S. House terms in 1992. Then in 2006, he defeated two-term incumbent Mike DeWine, now governor-elect, for a U.S. Senate seat and was re-elected in 2010 and last month.

Brown was the only Democrat elected to statewide executive office this year, discouraging but in this season of hope proof for Democrats that it still can be done.

Hershey is a former Washington correspondent and Columbus bureau chief for the Beacon Journal. He also was the Columbus bureau chief of the Dayton Daily News. He can be reached at hershey_ william@hotmail.com.