The hospitalization of Sen. John P. East (R-N.C.) for the second time this year has triggered speculation in his home state that he may not run for a second term.
East, 53, is listed in "satisfactory and stable" condition at Bethesda Naval Hospital, according to a hospital spokesman. He was admitted Saturday for observation and treatment, said his press aide, Jerry Woodruff, who added that he does not know what East is being treated for.
The former political science instructor, whose first term ends next year, was hospitalized for about a week in early February for removal of a benign obstruction of the urinary tract. At that time, Dr. Kevin O'Connell, chief of urology at Bethesda Naval, described the operation as "common surgery."
That ailment was not related to East's paralysis, the result of polio he contracted when he was 24, Woodruff said. The senator uses a wheelchair but can exercise on crutches and swim.
East is known as an outspoken conservative and a protege of the state's senior senator, Republican Jesse Helms. He never had held elective office when, in 1980, Helms and other New Right sources poured money into his long-shot Senate candidacy.
East created perhaps his biggest stir in 1981 when he sought to establish, through legal and medical testimony in a Senate hearing, that life begins at the moment of conception, making abortion murder. The issue was raised in connection with a Helms bill that would have allowed states to outlaw abortion.
Political consultant Charlie Black said yesterday that Helms told him recently that East's current hospitalization is related to the surgery in February and is "apparently nothing too major."
Black and others said East's 1986 campaign plans seem to be on track. He has authorized the formation of a committee to raise money for him.