PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Former New Jersey State Senator and U.S. Representative John Adler has died.

According to reports, the 51-year-old went to the hospital in March for a staph infection and was recovering at the hospital when he died.

As part of the Democratic sweeps during the 2008 Presidential election, Adler was thrust into national politics, replacing longtime Republican congressman Jim Saxton as Representative of South Jersey’s 3rd District. Saxton retired after succumbing to his own health problems.

Adler’s law firm says he contracted staph bacterial endocarditis and had surgery to repair damage to his heart on March 22. He was recovering at University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphiawhen he died.

A resident of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Adler was defeated in November after serving one term in Congress by former Philadelphia Eagles star, Republican Jon Runyan.

After the defeat, Adler, a Harvard Law graduate, returned to his firm to continue to practice law.

Rep. Jon Runyan offered his condolences in a statement that read in part:

“I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of former Congressman John Adler. May those he left behind be comforted in the knowledge that his lifetime of public service to our community had left a lasting legacy.”

New Jersey Governor Christie released the following statement Monday as he learned of Adler’s passing:

“Congressman Adler was a fine public servant and a good person. His untimely death is an awful shock. Mary Pat and I will be praying for his wife Shelley and their four sons during this sad and tragic time.”

New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver said:

“His passing is a tragic loss for our state, but his legacy of intelligent and classy leadership will not be forgotten. Every time we breath clean air at a restaurant, for instance, we can thank John Adler. On behalf of the New Jersey General Assembly, I offer my prayers and condolences to Congressman Adler’s family and friends at their time of grief.”

As a memebr of the New Jersey State Senate, John Adler served from January 1992 to January 2009. Former colleagues say he was instrumental in many of the current laws in New Jersey, like the state-wide smoking ban in public places.

Adler understood hard work, growing up in Haddonfield his family ran a dry cleaning business, when he was in high school, his family ran on tough times when his father began having heart attacks. Adler’s father died before he graduated. John Adler was 51.

Reported by Dave Huddleston, CBS 3; Ben Bowens,