WASHINGTON — State Sen. Karin Housley picked up the backing Thursday of former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman in the campaign for the seat he once held.

Housley, a Republican, is challenging appointed DFL Sen. Tina Smith in the November special election to fill out the last two years of Al Franken’s term, following his abrupt resignation over sexual harassment allegations.

Coleman’s support is the latest signal that Housley is consolidating establishment Republican support behind her bid. The only other declared candidate is Bob Anderson, a dental technician and cable access host.

“Karin faced head-on the challenges of being an entrepreneur and raising a family and never blinked,” Coleman, who was senator from 2003 to 2009, until he was unseated by Franken, said in a statement. “I am excited about the positive energy she brings to this election.

Franken wrested the seat from Coleman after a 2008 election that was among the closest in Senate history, with several recounts and a lawsuit ensuing.

Coleman now works as a senior lobbyist for the international law firm Hogan Lovells. He is also chairman of the American Action Network, a Republican-aligned nonprofit that raises funds for Republican candidates and helps develop their messaging. His backing could aid Housley’s fundraising efforts, a necessary component to mounting a U.S. Senate bid.

Housley praised Coleman in return, saying in a statement, “This election is about restoring Minnesotans’ trust in their representatives and working together to make sure nobody is left behind. Our campaign’s message of working hard, playing fair, and doing the right thing has resonated with Senator Coleman, and I’m excited to continue bringing that message to all corners of our state.”