TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Jim Whelan, a Democratic New Jersey state senator and former mayor of Atlantic City who worked to help revitalize the struggling seaside resort, has died. He was 68.
Whelan's death was announced on his Facebook page Tuesday night. A cause of death was not disclosed.
On July 11, Whelan underwent surgery to remove a cancerous growth from his kidney. It was announced on his Facebook page that "the operation was successful." Then on July 31, Whelan said that he had been readmitted to the hospital for complications from blood thinners he was prescribed.
"I look forward to getting back home in the near future and returning to work on behalf of the people of Atlantic County," he said on Facebook.
In a statement Tuesday night, Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney called Whelan "a true friend, a confidant and champion" for the people.
"Jim was rarely one to raise his voice, but was a dogged advocate for Atlantic City, a city he loved dearly, and was determined to see it thrive," Sweeney said. "He was the author of many of the initiatives that have helped to revitalize Atlantic City and will be remembered for that work for generations to come."
Whelan served three terms as mayor of Atlantic City before losing a re-election bid in 2001. He won a state Assembly seat in 2005 before being elected to his Senate seat two years later.
He represented the 2nd Legislative District, which includes Atlantic City and several other communities in Atlantic County.
In January, Whelan announced that he would not be seeking re-election. A teacher by trade, Whelan said at the time that he had a great run in politics, but it was "the right time" to leave.
Republican Gov. Chris Christie described Whelan as a "forthright and honest leader."
"While we did not always agree on policy, he was always willing to listen and reason together," Christie said in a statement. "The current comeback of Atlantic City is due in no small part to the efforts and passion of Jim Whelan."
Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said the loss of Whelan would be felt across the state.
"It's impossible to imagine the State House without Jim Whelan and his thoughtfulness," said Prieto, adding that he would be "dearly missed."