Little Rock lawyer Leon Holmes is on his way to the federal bench. He was confirmed yesterday in a tight 51-to-46 vote in the U-S Senate. The 53-year-old was nominated more than 18 months ago by President Bush to become a US district judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas. But Holmes` own words -- and a dispute between Democrats and the Republican White House over judgeships around the country -- brought numerous delays. Holmes drew criticism for his strident opposition to abortion and for some of his writings about women`s relationships with their husbands. He was the first district judge nominee in more than half a century to pass through the Judiciary Committee without a recommendation. Holmes said he didn`t know what to expect from the vote after becoming a political football. Still, he said he respected all of the senators` decisions, regardless of how they voted. Holmes says he would have withdrawn his nomination if he hadn`t received critical support from both Democratic Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln.