A SMALL VICTORY IN TEXAS…. Regular readers know we’ve been keeping a close eye on developments with the Texas Board of Education, which has been working on a breathtakingly right-wing curriculum, which could undermine education in other states given Texas’s clout with textbook publishers.

As our own Mariah Blake explained in the Monthly‘s print edition, board member and outspoken creationist Don McLeroy has been the ringleader of the ultraconservative crew, which intends to downplay the contributions of civil rights leaders, minimize an “emphasis on multiculturalism,” “exonerate” Joe McCarthy, and force students to learn about Phyllis Schlafly and the Contract with America, among other things.

It’s worth noting, then, that McLeroy’s own constituents fired him last week, backing a more moderate GOP candidate.

Lobbyist Thomas Ratliff edged out McLeroy 50.4%-49.6% in a GOP primary for the seat McLeroy has held since 1999.

Close as it was, Ratliff’s win is significant because he represented a clear alternative to McLeroy, and he pulled through in a deeply conservative district. McLeroy’s home county went 64-35 for McCain in ’08, and no Democrat is even running for the board seat.

Ratliff is younger, moderate, and emphasized listening “to teachers and superintendents in determining what students should know,” according to the endorsement column of the Dallas Morning News.

Ratliff made a point of telling voters that he, unlike Don McLeroy, does not believe that “dinosaurs and mankind lived at the same time.” He managed to win anyway.

It’s a small, local victory for reason and common sense, but I’ll take it.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that McLeroy’s term in office on the state board will continue through the end of the year, during which time his assaults on reality will continue.

Still, Republican primary voters in Texas saw a right-wing clown, on some kind of cultural crusade, wreaking havoc, so they voted for a more moderate replacement. GOP primary voters don’t do this often — especially in Texas — so when it occurs, it’s heartening.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.